Candid Candy

Most Halloween candy just isn't green. So this year, why not hand out treats that don't have frightening consequences?

Halloween may be a time of fun and fantasy, but that’s no reason to throw your green living principles out the window—especially when it comes to eating.

They may be small but treats can contribute to health and environmental problems. Consider that, last year, Canadian consumers bought an average of $317 million worth of candy leading up to the Halloween season, according to Statistics Canada. Think of all the sugar and candy wrappers that represents.  

Thankfully, there are many ways to celebrate this spooky day in a way that’s better for both body and environment. Here are some tips on how:

Not so sweet

Almost all sugary sweets that ruin teeth and waistlines are made with refined sugars and filled with unhealthy preservatives and additives. While these additives help keep candy fresh, many children have allergic reactions to added colours and flavours.

Health Canada says that food additives go through vigorous testing before reaching consumers, but some additives that have been given the clear in Canada, such as Red No. 3, have been banned in other countries.

Preservatives may also be a cause for worry. A British study released in 2007 linked behavioural problems and hyperactivity in children with preservatives found in fruit juices, sauces and pickles.

Not to mention the health risks attributed to high-fructose corn syrup—a common ingredient in candy that has been linked to obesity.

Better candy

That’s why some candy companies are working to change what we put in our treats. Ontario’s Pure Fun Confections is one of many North American companies that have sprouted up to provide candy made with all-natural ingredients.

Luna Roth, the president of Pure Fun, says the ingredients in her confections are good for both body and the environment: They're made with organic, fair-trade sugars, flavoured with natural flavours, and coloured with things like tumeric and red beets.

Purchasing candy made with organic sugar instead of corn syrup not only promotes good health, but better environmental practices as well. Candy made with high-fructose corn syrup leaves a substantial carbon footprint: the resources needed to cultivate huge amounts of corn, paired with the use of fertilizers, can lead to soil erosion and farmland destruction. 

Other organic and sustainable candy companies include Endangered Species Chocolate (available at Whole Foods), Yummy Earth lollipops (available online and at Whole Foods) and Candy Trees Toffee (available online). Pure Fun organic candy is widely available in Canada; search for a store near you here.

Eat local

Halloween doesn’t have to mean choosing sweets over your local farmers’ market. With Halloween on the edge of harvest season, there are plenty of local, sustainable options for trick-or-treaters. Sending your kids to school that day with fresh picked apples might not be their first choice, but apples are an excellent Halloween alternative. You can also turn those apples into warm cups of apple cider to be served at parties. 

But before you prepare to give out local treats, be sure to research what you’re dropping in those bags. Dr. Alyson Shaw, a member of the public education committee at the Canadian Pediatric Society, says that homemade goodies should be monitored closely, and that treats that might contain non-pasteurized ingredients (such as apples dipped in raw honey) should never be given to children.

Parents should also take the time to sort through goodies to ensure that any homemade goods are safe and securely packaged. Health Canada recommends that parents throw away candy or treats that are unwrapped, in torn packaging, or in wrappers that have holes.  

Reduce waste

As trick-or-treaters make the rounds on October 31, a veritable mountain of plastic candy wrappers is sure to pile up in households and as litter on sidewalks.

But there are ways to have a reduced-waste Halloween. Alternative candy companies like Pure Fun are working to decrease the packaging their popular treats come in. Environmental writer Jodi Helmer also recommends buying your treats in bulk to reduce trash.

Of course, not handing out candy is another way to make sure you’re not adding to the garbage mound.

“It’s important to emphasize items other than candy,” says Dr. Shaw, who recommends filling bags with crayons, stickers and toothbrushes.

Decorate naturally

Instead of creating haunted houses with paper and plastic decorations, take a cue from some natural sources this Halloween. Helmer recommends using bales of hay and colourful gourds to add a touch of the fall season to your Halloween plans. Both items are natural, locally available and can head straight to the compost, rather than the trash bin, when it’s time to take them down.