Life

Green Halloween

SUZANNE ELSTON, SUN MEDIA

Thanks to the magic of marketing, Halloween has become a very big business.

Gone are the simple homemade costumes and hand carved pumpkins. In their place is an entire industry dedicated to increasing consumer spending. Stores have been stocked with decorations, lights, costumes and even greeting cards since before Labour Day.

According to Environment Canada, Canadians spend over $1.5 billion on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations every year. As a result, it is now the second biggest decorating holiday after Christmas.

Halloween has become so heavily packaged and over processed that we wouldn't recognize the real thing if a ghoul dragged us away in the night! This isn't just frightening for your wallet, most of the Halloween items we purchase are used once and then thrown away.

To put the fun back in Halloween -- and money back in your pocket -- start by recycling old clothes into one-of-a-kind costumes.

According to Greenhalloween.org, "A personalized costume not only looks unique, but also reduces demands on natural resources and landfill space."

For inspiration, have your kids look through magazines and books for ideas. Rummage through your closets to see what you can find that can be adapted into a costume. While you're at it, keep a carton handy for items you might want to donate to charity.

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MORE GHOULISH IDEAS

- Coat hangers can be stretched and formed into frames for wings. Attach the wings using fabric elastic, ribbon or string.

- For a butterfly, cover with tissue or craft paper and have your child decorate with non-toxic markers. Use pipe cleaners for antennae.

- For a bat, cover wings with black plastic garbage bags.

- White sheets can be used to create angel's wings.

- Tear old sheets into strips to create a great Mummy wrap!

- Recycle cardboard boxes.

- Christmas present: Wrap yourself in Christmas paper and add a bow to your head.

- Jack-in-the-box: Paint yourself with bright colours, add a small crank to one side. Add face paints and a hat.

- Robot: Spray yourself with silver paint. Use pieces of flexible dryer hose for arms.

- Use non-toxic face paints instead of masks, or make your own: Combine 30 ml of soft shortening with 30 ml of cornstarch. Divide into containers and add food colouring as desired.

- Wash and dry any skin that makeup will be applied to. Apply a thin coat of moisturizer to skin.

- Apply makeup with finger tips.

- Use a pillowcase or a reusable grocery bag rather than purchasing disposable plastic bags to collect candy.

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IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN

Pumpkins aren't just for carving. Leftover pumpkin is perfect for pies and can also be used in soups and casseroles in place of squash.

- Peel pumpkin, cut it up into chunks and cook in boiling water until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chunks.)

- Pumpkin can also be cooked in the microwave to save energy.

- Drain and mash the cooked pumpkin.

- Freeze in two-cup portions.

- Remember to throw peelings and other leftovers in your green bin or on the compost heap.

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TRICK OR TREATS?

Providing Halloween treats can be done with the environment (and the dentist) in mind.

Although some packaging is necessary for food safety, avoid packaged candies or chocolate bars. Here are a few suggestions:

Food items:

- Sugar-free gum

- Granola bars

- Organic fruit snacks or fruit leather

- Snack-sized bags of trail mix, organic cookies, crackers or popcorn

-on-food items:

- Pencils made from recycled plastic, wood or paper

- Temporary tattoos

- Shoelaces

- Cookie cutters

- Stickers

- Mini-notepads

- Erasers

- Word puzzles

- Toothbrushes

- Seed packets

- Bookmarks (made from recycled paper or embedded with seeds)

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TRICK OR TREAT FOR UNICEF

While the traditional UNICEF penny boxes are gone, this year Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is poised to hit the fundraising milestone of $100 million raised since 1955 to help the world's most vulnerable children.

The Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF program encourages Canadian school children to raise funds during the Halloween season in support of the Schools for Africa Programme. The goal is to create schools that offer a safe environment where children can learn, play and have access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Proceeds from the 2009 campaign will help one million children in Malawi and Rwanda to go to school.

For more information visit www.trickortreatforunicef.ca or call toll-free 1-800-567-4483.

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A SEEDY STORY

Pumpkin seeds are considered a super food. They are rich in amino acids, zinc, protein, iron, phosphorous and are also very high in fiber. They make a perfect snack for school lunches. What you can't eat, the birds will love!

- Remove seeds and place in a large bowl.

- Cover with boiling water to loosen the fibrous material.

- When the water's cooled, drain the seeds.

- Use a vegetable brush to remove any stubborn fibers, rinse.

- Toss with vegetable oil.

- Spread evenly on a

cookie sheet and bake in a warm oven (around 275 F/140 C ) until crispy.

- Remove and cool.

- Rub the seeds with a clean tea towel to remove any remaining membranes, and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Enjoy!