7 Eco Halloween Costume Ideas

The problem

With Halloween just around the corner, around 33 million adults and kids across the UK will be planning their costumes for the various parties and trick and treat events being organized throughout October. And most of those will be worn just once before being packed away at the bottom of a drawer, only to be eventually thrown away and doomed to an eternal death in landfill. Scary, but true!

A typical Halloween costume contains 90% of plastic. They might not be cheap to buy, but the average costume is made from cheap material, such as polyester, which is highly flammable. I’ll never forget that weekend when Claudia Winkleman couldn’t present on Strictly Come Dancing as her young daughter had been severely burnt after her Halloween costume had gone up in flames while she was wearing it!

Although it’s a big business for fancy dress costume retailers, with over £500m being spent on costumes in the UK in 2018 alone, the impact on the environment when all that disposable plastic ends up in landfill is a scary reality, not mentioning all the resources and waste spent manufacturing them. It is reported that over 7 million costumes were disposed of in the bin and sent to landfill in 2016, and it’s likely the figure is much higher now. That’s over 2,600 tonnes of plastic (equivalent to 205 double-decker buses) that will never ever go away!

But if you’re not ready to hang up your Chucky mask yet and you get thrilled with the planning of a new Halloween costume every year, there are some eco-friendly ways you or your children can have a spook-tastic time and save money at the same time. Here are our top 7 tips and tricks!

The solution

1) Reuse costumes

There are many ways to reuse Halloween costumes. From accessorizing, layering different parts of a costume to create a different look, combining with Halloween make-up, or simply handing it down to a smaller relative or friend. As long as it’s fancy dress, anything goes! Failing that, you could reuse them for non-Halloween projects or school plays. And don’t forget to dig into your wardrobe for bits that you could use.

Eco trick: To create a zombie outfit for your child, dig out that pirate or princess costume from the fancy dress box and dress it up with scary Halloween make-up.

2) Use charity shops 

For grown out costumes that can’t be reused or handed down to a relative or friend, instead of throwing them in the bin, give to a charity shop. The same goes for buying. You’ll probably end up with a bargain and the glowing feeling knowing that you’ve saved one more costume from landfill.

Eco trick: If you can’t get an entire outfit from a charity shop, pair different items together to create a unique look. Check out British Heart Foundation’s DIY Halloween Costumes for some creative inspo.

Repurpose old or unwanted clothing and get creative with face paints

3) Costume borrow or swap

Who doesn’t love a clothes swap?! It’s the perfect excuse to borrow or own that costume you’ve had your eye on since you saw it on someone at last year’s Halloween party. You’ll probably be surprised at how many people will think it’s a great idea, but hadn’t thought of it themselves. Raise the idea with friends, your local Facebook group, your school parent’s group, anyone who could be interested. Oh, and it’s completely free!

Eco trick: Host a costume swap play date for kids to organize their outfits in time for Halloween. They’ll love getting dressed up in each other’s clothes. You could even have a face painter on hand to make it extra fun.

4) Make your own

If you’re particularly creative, you could make your own outfit. Surely a great excuse to get the sewing machine out and use up all that fabric you’ve had lying around for ages, or, even better, reuse fabric from old clothes that have seen better days. If you’re not good with the needle, there are so many other ways to create something wacky and wonderful using materials like cardboard and other craft products. Kids will love making their own masks, and their friends will be so impressed they were made from scratch. Bonus points if you use eco-friendly materials.

Eco trick: Use white masking tape on a plain black top and leggings to create a skeleton costume, as shown in this short video tutorial.

Over 7 million Halloween costumes were sent to landfill in 2018. Cheap plastic Halloween costumes advertised at major supermarkets.

5) Rent a costume

Seeing as a high proportion of Halloween costumes are only worn once before being disposed of, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot and buy new each year. So renting a costume seems like a good option, as not only are they reused, but you’re more likely to get better quality using fabrics that are more eco-friendly!

Eco trick: Express Yourself offers a high quality costume rental service that is environmentally friendly.

6) Paint yourself scary

There are some incredible looks you can achieve with body paint, and you don’t have to be the world’s best artist to give it a go. A search on #halloweenbodypaint on Instagram or Pinterest brings up some amazing images and video tutorials for ideas you can use. And no, you don’t have to be naked underneath, unless you want to of course!

Spooky idea: It’s best to use eco-friendly face and body paint, such as Namaki, which is all-natural, organic and packaged in fully recyclable non-plastic packaging.

(L) Whitney Hedrick uses red glitter to create this amazing glittery sugar skull look on YouTube.

(R) Sarah_scarer_smith (Instagram) and her incredible body paint. Model:  Kay La PetiteFee (@fly_little_sparrow); Photo: Rob Gurney  (digitalmechanic.com)

7) Glitter yourself

Glitter isn’t just for festivals. As long as it’s eco-friendly, glitter is for everyone everywhere and can be applied literally anywhere (well, almost)! You can create some amazingly sparkly Halloween looks and really stand out in the crowd with even a dab of the magical stuff, on its own or layered over face paint.

Eco trick: Use our Red Voodoo bio-glitter or Poison Ivy glitter with Organic Aloe Vera gel for a sustainable sparkly look that is both kind to your skin and the environment. Quick and easy to apply and remove.

What are your favourite eco Halloween tricks and tips?

The Jolly Turtle supplies eco-friendly bespoke and pre-packed kits for festivals, events, travel, and lifestyle, offering a simple and convenient way to shop for all your plastic-free essentials.