Halloween Decor Can Be Harmful to Wildlife and the Environment


Halloween Decor Can Be Harmful to Wildlife and the Environment

As I pound the pavement during my morning runs, I’ve been enjoying the many Halloween decorations in the neighborhood—some of which sprang up a mere week after Labor Day. I’m as excited as everyone else is for the spooky season, but as someone who works to protect biodiversity, I’d like to share a few tips on how to make sure that Halloween isn’t scary for our local wildlife.

Skip the fake cobwebs or keep them inside. Not only are those polyester cobwebs you buy by the bag made of petroleum-based synthetic materials, but they can also be a hazard to wildlife. It’s not uncommon for birds and insects to get stuck in the giant webs, where they die or get injured trying to escape. This time of year is peak migration for neotropical songbirds flying south, so we don’t want to create more hazards for them. If you must have your faux cobwebs, try to keep them indoors.

Try secondhand decorations first. Decorating for Halloween has only grown in popularity in the past few years as other festivities were canceled because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, many spooky decorations are made from plastic. That’s a problem because of pollution: The total mass of plastic in the world is double the weight of all animals on the planet. There’s hardly a corner of the Earth where you won’t find microplastics and wildlife ingesting them. Before buying brand-new decorations, check out local yard sales and thrift stores. Rehoming the skeleton from someone else’s closet is a great alternative to buying new.

Trick or treat with a reusable tote. If you’ve got young ones heading out to trick or treat, send them along with a reusable tote or a pillowcase rather than a plastic pumpkin or plastic bag. Reusable sacks are more durable and hold more treats for a long night of candy collecting—and you likely already have one at home. The benefits of a reusable tote are twofold: You’ll avoid purchasing a new product made with virgin plastic and you’ll keep used bags out of landfills and waterways.

Allow natural fall color to adorn your yard. Before the leaves start to change, you may see a burst of yellow in your yard from goldenrod flowers. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod isn’t responsible for your fall allergy symptoms—its cousin ragweed is. Goldenrod is an important nectar source for native pollinators, so don’t pull it up. Instead, enjoy the beautiful autumn color it brings to your yard.

Compost your pumpkins, corn stalks, and hay bales. The spooky season can’t last forever, and Halloween will be in the rearview mirror before we know it. As you pack up your decorations, remember that plant-based materials are safe to compost—just be sure to break them into smaller pieces. Alternatively, you can leave pumpkins out for wildlife to snack on, and hay bales can be used to help overwinter your garden.

With these tips, you can ensure this season is a treat for wildlife and your neighbors.

This blog post originally appeared on Buffalo News, viewable here.