Staying Safe this Halloween: Covid-19 and the Environment

In years past, the scariest part about October 31st might have been going to a haunted house, the visit to the dentist you make afterwards, marathoning horror movies, or the terrifying costumes your friends come up with.

This year, people have other things on their minds. 

The election that’s three days after Halloween… how to trick or treat in a global pandemic… the fact that no one will see your super creative costume if you live in an area with spiking cases… or the formerly rare and currently escalating extreme weather events caused by our apathy to the climate crisis…

How do we celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year without getting spooked by the real-world horror all around us?

Answer: we celebrate Halloween with respect for what’s going on in the universe at large.

As with everything else this year, we’ll have to amend our approach to tradition just a bit in keeping with “the new normal.” 

For example, for the first time in recorded history, arctic sea ice isn’t freezing during October. And although we know that corporations are overwhelmingly more responsible for the unsustainable rise of greenhouse gases than individuals, we as conscious consumers can feel discordant mindlessly peeling away a million plastic wrappers.

Or consider that some of our favorite ways to celebrate Halloween may also contribute to the spread of Covid-19, as we head into flu season… parties with punch bowls and bobbing for apples, sharing pieces of costumes, trick-or-treating in neighborhoods with hundreds of children…

Let’s focus on being prepared to have a great Halloween, and not inviting scarier realities into our lives than the ones we’re already living!

Nothing Scarier than a Super-Spreader…

One of the great things about Halloween and Covid-19 – and there aren’t many – is this: It’s the perfect time to wear a mask. (Note: in addition to your regular Covid-19 mask, per the CDC.)

If you’ve got children and are planning on engaging in an outdoor social event, consider costumes with gloves and masks. For yourself, too! You could even decorate your regular mask in an extra-scary way and stay compliant with CDC recommendations.  

With children, think about emphasizing:

  • Decorating your house together.
  • Watching family-friendly Halloween flicks (you could even spring for a projector, if you’ve got a backyard!)
  • Hanging out with neighbors, socially distanced from balconies, porches, yards, and the like. 
  • Carving pumpkins together.
  • Sewing/crafting your own costumes.
  • Leave buckets of Halloween candies and hand sanitizer out at the edge of your driveway or sidewalk, so that kids can just grab and go!

Of course, if you don’t have children, it’s much easier to engage in Halloween safely. 

Know the numbers in your area – while cases are spiking, it’s more dangerous to aggregate around lots of people (especially when people come in from out of town to celebrate.) 

Try not to attend gatherings with more than 10 people, and keep in mind the size of your bubble – not just how many people you are around, but how many people those people are around. 

If possible, try to limit any gatherings you attend to the outdoors – good ventilation can make all the difference.

To sum up, for adults, make sure that:

  • Your gatherings are limited in size.
  • Your bubble has been as careful as you have.
  • You’re still wearing masks and sanitizing regularly.
  • Your gatherings are outside.

And as for the other, horrifying angle…

Except Excessive Environmental Waste!

Most Western holidays involve lots of plastic trash, decorations you buy for cheap and throw away quickly, and other such one-use items.

Halloween is no exception – the plastic wrappers on all of the individually wrapped candies, the dollar-store and yard-sale banners and signs, and even costumes made from harmful materials that never get used again.

Try these tips to avoid a wasteful Halloween: 

  1. If possible, build your own costume: Instead of buying a quick and easy costume made with flame retardants and phthalates from Amazon, have a contest to see who can come up with the most creative costume using only objects from around your house!
  1. Create your own Halloween decorations with household objects: Sustainable Halloween crafts are super easy to find these days, and with a little bit of forethought, can be twice the fun of buying plastic-packaged plastic witches and toy bats. Spend this Saturday cutting, painting, and gluing – click here for some ideas. 
  1. Use pillow cases, tote bags, or other reusable candy-holders: Instead of plastic jack-o-lanterns or other one-use objects, use bags that are already in your home to collect your spoils!
  1. If you’ve got the time and the money, make your own treats!: Individually-packaged plastic treats this year aren’t going to be responsible for the Earth warming another degree. But if you’re able to provide treats another way, maybe make your own milk chocolate cake pops, or dark chocolate peanut butter bars, or caramel fudge crackers, and wrap them in beeswax. Just remember to let other parents in your neighborhood know what you’re doing, keep big signs up listing the ingredients in your homemade treats, and separate your goodies with different ingredients into different buckets.

Just because we have to think a little bit harder about how to behave this year (which, let’s face it, we probably should’ve been doing all along) doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun!

Whether you’ve got kids or you just love the holiday spirit, don’t let the general dejectitude of the world at large dampen your spooky spirits this Saturday.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.