Sunday, October 19, 2008

Off With Your Heads!! (and Other Thoughts of a Green Halloween)

Halloween has always been the unofficial kick-off to my favorite time of the year - celebrations with family and friends (my birthday), fancy dresses (and costumes!), good food . . . and the opportunity to do it all in the greenest way possible. I love the challenge of entertaining and gift giving that maintains my commitment to style AND (eco-friendly) substance.

We just held our Halloween party last night. Like all of our parties, I worked hard to make it as green an event as possible, while still creating a fun atmosphere for our guests. Its a little more complicated with Halloween, because I always want to decorate the house - plus, there is that whole costume thing. This makes the event more resource intensive than just having some people over for food and drinks.

Here are some of the things I did to make our Halloween get-together green, without being "crunchy" (and without spending a freakin' fortune):

Costumes

Queen of Hearts Costume:
Bought:
Dress (Ebay); Gold Cord; stick-on felt for hearts on dress.
Found: plastic water bottle for crown.
Owned: fishnet stockings; vintage red boots; 2 small crown brooches.


Mad Hatter Costume:
Bought: Poster board for hat; plaid pants from Goodwill (not shown)
Owned: all other clothing; material and ribbon to cover hat; stuffed mouse


(Note my friend Mike's creative use of sunglasses, a paper bag and white paper. Brilliant!!)

Tips:
  • Be creative - a little goes a long way!!
  • Try to buy as few new things as possible!
  • Use what you already own, just purchase a few key details.
  • Borrow a costume from someone.
  • Shop at Thrift stores for costume-y pieces.
What I did:

Our "theme" (although all of our friends usually ignore my fruitless efforts to actually have a theme) this year was Alice in Wonderland. Instead of buying my costume, I constructed one out of various secondhand, craft materials and things I already owned. I know, some people will say "I'm just not crafty - I can't do that" - but it is actually much easier than you think. Here is what I did: Since I went as the Queen of Hearts, I bought a used red prom dress on Ebay. With a few quick hand sewn stitches, two pins that I already owned and some stick-on felt hearts, I was done. I constructed my crown from a discarded plastic bottle (which I actually picked up from the gutter outside of my house - love DC), gold ribbon and some wire (I hope to post a tutorial at some point). The boots I wore are vintage and were purchased almost 6 years ago at Eastern market (I just KNEW there would be an opportunity to rock them!) I already had the fishnets.

Mark's Mad Hatter costume was basically a combination of various pieces of clothing from both our closets. The plaid pants were from Goodwill and I constructed the hat from poster board and fabric (luckily, you can't see my sloppy glue gun effort . . . btw, my glue gun is the best $4.99 that I ever spent. It's great for fixing hems, fixing things around the house, all sorts of crazy craft projects . . . ) I used this great tutorial for the hat. I had the small stuffed mouse.

Party
Tips:
  • Reduce waste (don't use disposable plates, glasses or utensils).
  • Use recycled and biodegradable products.
  • Buy organic and local food and alcohol.
  • Recycle and compost whatever is left.

What I did:

Partyware: First of all, we never ever ever use disposable plates/glasses/or utensils . . . and not because it isn't the greenest way to go, but because its effing TACKY. Seriously. You are a stylish person, you live in a well decorated house, you're wearing an expensive dress, why would you use Dixie plates? Is loading the dishwasher an extra time really that much of an effort for you? Some people may say, well, I just don't have enough plates, etc. for an entire party. What I say is, there are plenty of ways around this!! First of all, you can easily load up on party ware at your local Goodwill stores for just a few dollars. There are LOADS of serving trays, dishes, fancy glasses, pitchers, etc. there for sale (and no, it does not have to match!) You can also BORROW partyware from friends. Lastly, why not ask your friends to bring a dish with them when they come? Don't be shy to share your reasons for this request - green is so hip right now, you'll be given extra props for doing it the right way.

Drinks: Each time we entertain, I think that I am going to invest in a keg for the occasion. It is probably the greenest thing to do: kegs are made from steel, which is N. America's most recycled material. There is also no waste from bottle and caps - and no resources necessry to make them in the first place! Unfortunately, I am much too much of a beer connoisseur to have only one type of beer at my parties. But, we do recycle all the bottles that are used (you would be amazed at how many parties I've attended where there was NO recycling!) Although I had wanted to buy some organic brews this time around, they were just a bit too expensive for our underemployed household.

Food: We purchased food from the Takoma Park Co-op. This included cheese made without hormones and antibiotics, from cows that were ethically raised; organic fruit; and various other organic and natural ingredients for some of the things we made. For napkins, we used Seventh Generation paper towels folded into napkins. We composted anything that we could including used napkins (yes, I actually picked through the trash to find the ones that were thrown away since I forgot to mention to people not to thrown them out) and any veggies.

Decor

(Note playing card garlands! AND, note Mike's cotton ball bunny tail . . .)
Tips:
  • Use things that you already own.
  • Re-use decorations saved from other events.
  • Borrow decorations from friends.
  • Make your own with easy on-line tutorials.

What I did: Of course, the best part of the Halloween party for me is the decorating. I LOVE decorating - it really helps to set a festive mood. First of all, I used tissue paper streamers that I had saved from a Valentine's Day party several years ago. Then, I found some old packs of cards (that we never used), punched little holes in the tops and used hemp twine to make streamers. I have to admit that I did purchase 6 plastic flamingos on Ebay that were probably made in China (I know, I know, but I HAD to have them since this was an Alice in Wonderland soiree). Instead of having a table centerpiece, I made a mobile of printed out Alice characters. (I got the illustrations from this blog). I also had meant to make a big banner that said "Off With Their Heads!!", but we ran out of time. Oh well. Next time.

So there it is. I hope that this helps you make you Halloween just a little bit greener.

Have fun!

As always, special thanks to Mark Silva Photography. And check out his blog here.

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