What To Do With Your Old Squishy Jack O'Lantern

Oct 31, 2013

Even when it comes to Halloween, there are ideas for curbing waste. You might tuck a few away, until next October.

A couple years ago, Elisabeth Olson was brainstorming with colleagues about ways to boost recycling. That’s part of her job with the DNR – to promote reuse.

The meeting gave birth to Green Your Halloween.

“I really like the do it yourself costume and really you can find all the items you need lying around your house. Another great one is I know of - a lot of families that do costume swaps; so often costumes are only worn once and then discarded. The other really easy one is just to trick or treat with a pillowcase or some kind of reusable bag or bucket.”

While most trick-or-treat candy will disappear - what about all the pumpkins sitting out front? According to the National Retail Federation, 44 percent of Americans carve pumpkins and many end up dumped with yard trimmings or food waste.

Olsen suggests tiptoeing into composting, if you don’t already. She says a pumpkin showed her the way.

“Before I even started composting, I used to just break it up and just put it in a bush, and it would break down and it actually provides some good nutrients to your plants.”

Some people build a compost bin; Olson says she bought hers dirt cheap.

“Do what makes sense for you; again there’s something for everyone in the area of recycling waste reduction. And if it works for you, it’s what you are more likely to stick with.”

Your community might welcome pumpkins along with garden debris and leaves in the fall, but local policies vary. For example, the City of Milwaukee asks residents to deliver “retired” Jack O'Lanterns to a community compost site or a city Self Help Center.

“And every little bit helps,” Olson adds.

If she doesn’t convince you to create your own “pumpkin graveyard”, Olson has waste reduction schemes up her sleeve - for all seasons.