Green Halloween Costumes

Photo: iStockphoto/mrundbaken
How to create an eco-friendly ensemble without forgoing the fun and fantasy of Halloween

When it comes to Halloween costumes, scary images come to mind: over-packaged costumes; plastic accessories; dresses and capes made of unsustainable materials. So is it possible to bewitch your neighbourhood’s trick-or-treaters with an eco-friendly costume this Halloween?

You most certainly can, says Jed Goldberg, president of Toronto-based Earth Day Canada. And it starts with some creative thinking. “Costumes are one area where a lot of people go to the store and buy a premade costume,” he says. “The first thing you want to think about is ‘How can I not go to the store and buy some prepackaged thing that’s been mass-produced off-shore somewhere with damaging material?’ ”

Need a little inspiration when it comes to thinking about environmentally friendly costume ideas? Then read on.


Pint-sized costume demands today are different than they used to be, notes Lindsay Coulter, the Vancouver-based “Queen of Green” at the David Suzuki Foundation. “It used to be you’d just wear the flower girl dress from the summer before,” says Coulter. “But now with kids, it’s not enough to be a pirate. You have to be Captain Jack Sparrow!”

What to do:

Do-It-Yourself. How about checking out sites such as or Here, you can unearth instructions on how to make dozens of kiddie costume ideas including Jack Sparrow, Harry Potter, Optimus Prime, Wall-E and Eve, and more. Many are made from recycled materials such as a computer box and its packing materials, or clothes from your child’s or your closet.

Second-hand. If you’re not artistically inclined and prefer the store-bought look, then consider buying second-hand. Free classified sites such as, or often have sellers listing their children’s old costumes. Or check out the bulletin boards of your local school or even pediatrician’s office—sometimes sellers post second-hand costume sales there, too. Still can’t find what you want? Call your local party store to see if they have children’s rental costumes.

Or what about arranging a good, old-fashioned costume swap? “If you’ve got little kids, you can host a costume exchange by inviting other families to come over with Halloween costumes,” suggests Goldberg.

Buy green. If you are looking for purchases to permanently add to your dress up box, check out sites such as Here, Toronto artisan Heather Shaw uses eco felt made out of recycled pop bottles to create timeless costume pieces such as capes, crowns, wands, even loot bags.


A good costume is often hopelessly incomplete without face paint and hair colouring, but these often contain chemicals that are both toxic to our health and the environment including dyes, fragrance and preservatives. “Look for more eco-friendly, no-coal tar hair dyes,” says Coulter. “And with makeup, even if it’s a mineral-based makeup, it’s better than the types that have the phthalates and parabens and other preservatives.” Better yet, try this homemade face paint recipe: Mix 1 teaspoon of corn starch, ½ teaspoon cold cream, ½ teaspoon of water and mix in food colouring for colours. (And as with all makeup, test this on skin first to watch for skin irritations.)


And then there are props. “Stay away from places such as the dollar store. is a great site where they’ve tested lots of toys from kids jewelry to lipsticks and purses and stuff and found that most of them contain traces of lead and cadmium,” notes Coulter. Again, thrift store items or household materials might prove to make better props.

And if you’re really inspired to go green this year, you could even try a green-themed costume, dressing your child up simply—as a tree, for example—or undertaking more elaborate executions such as the Earth, a recycling bin or even a well-known natural product brand, such as Tom’s of Maine toothpaste.