Six Tips for a Sustainable Halloween Costume

Halloween is coming up, which means the time to buy a costume is now! It can be difficult to, or even feel overwhelming to find a costume that doesn’t create waste. Growing up with a scratchy onesie covered in plastic faux fur being the average annual costume, it can be hard to shift your focus to more sustainable (and comfortable) options.

Hubbub, a UK-based environmental charity reported that, "on average each costume is worn twice and 4 in 10 only get one wear." They state that this led to an estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste, which equals roughly 83 million plastic bottles. With the population of America being approximately five times larger than the UK, that math gets pretty... spooky.

What does this mean, though? Whether it’s the type of fabric, where you purchase the costume, or what happens with it afterwards, you can do several things to make your costume low-waste. Here are six tips to help!


One - Raid Your Closet

Look at what you already own! The easiest, quickest, cheapest, and most sustainable option is to raid your own closet and see what you can put together. Could that flannel shirt and jeans make a cute scarecrow? What about that new dress that 2020 prevented you from wearing; does it resemble someone’s iconic Met Gala look?

Raiding your own closet (or a family member’s) is the number one method to keeping your costume sustainable. It saves time, money, and hassle! However, if your closet isn’t inspiring you, here’s five more ways to keep this year’s costume planet-friendly:


Two - Buy or Rent Pieces Secondhand!

Look into different options such as buying at thrift stores and apps like Depop, renting from Remember Me Costumes & Vintage Haberdashery, or borrow/buy from friends! Asking around is not only a great way to see what friends have, but also to get a conversation about sustainability started with them!

Buying a costume secondhand prevents a perfectly-good item from being tossed. Usually, thrift stores have a pretty good costume section. Go a couple weeks before to get the best options, as stock can be limited! If you don’t see something in the section that fits, don’t give up! Walk around for a bit to see if anything inspires you. Some ideas that may not be in the costume section are a thrifted Rachel Green costume, and an Audrey Hepburn!


Three - Buy Something You’ll Rewear Again.

Outfit repeating is in — is there a costume that you can see yourself rewearing pieces of later on? Prioritizing a costume that can continually be a staple in your wardrobe is a great way to have a sustainable Halloween.

This is also a great way to connect with others about sustainability! When your friend asks, “haven’t I seen that skirt before?” in March, you can share all about your costume strategy.


Four - Getting Clear on Materials

If you buy a costume new, look for sustainable, natural fabrics. Not purchasing virgin polyester fabric (meaning not made from recycled materials) is a great way to reduce plastics entering our water. Fabrics given certifications such as GOTS Cotton and OEKO-TEX are becoming more widely available as well!

OEKO-TEX is common in Target's textiles -- in a pinch, you can be a classic sheet ghost or dinosaur without worrying about toxins.

If there is room in your budget, supporting brands that are consciously making the effort to minimize their environmental impact is also a great option! For Days has a great circular approach to clothing, and Tentree has a great variety!


Five -  Buy Early!

Give your items enough time to ship to you so you don’t have to rush-order a backup last minute. There’s few things more frustrating than working hard on the perfect costume only to throw together something half as exciting day-of.

The USPS announced that shipping delays have started, so you should expect four out of every ten shipments to be delayed. Planning ahead and making sure that your costume will be ready to go will save money & effort.


Six - Plan your costume’s End-of-Life

The method of planning your garments’ end-of-life is very underrated, and in my opinion, should be used much more! Do you want to sell it again on Depop? Will you wear it until it is textile recycled, or maybe donate it? Get specific!

Having a clear end-goal for the clothing you buy is a helpful method so you can prioritize what type of clothing you are purchasing, costume or not! 

Some options for donating your costumes are to post it on a local BuyNothing page, asking family or friends if they would reuse it, or contacting costume rental shops to see if they accept donations!


Overall, do your best, stay patient with yourself, and acknowledge that we’re all still learning how to approach sustainability. Happy Halloween! 🎃

by Logan Bryant

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