Green Youth Movement

It's a Scream to Go Green


Who wants to change the face of Halloween?

With a national obesity epidemic and a hurting planet, kids and parents are joining forces this year to celebrate Halloween in a healthier, greener way. The goal is to make the holiday more about community and creativity, and less about candy and consumption

Green Halloween and Healthy Halloween were both launched in 2007 -- across the country from each other -- as initiatives to make the holiday a little less scary for health and environmental concerns.

Before you scream, we didn't say that Halloween doesn't have to be any fun. And, you even get to have some sweets.

The two organizations are teaming up this year in New York City and all over the country. On Oct. 31 in New York, a festival in the Nolita neighborhood will be followed by a special, healthy trick-or-treat trail.

If you're not in New York, there are still endless ways you can participate. I conducted email interviews with representatives Jim Glaser and Corey Colwell-Lipson about their vision for the project -- which I think they should start calling "Grealthy Halloween" -- as well as with several families who've participated in the past.

Colwell-Lipson describes the event, saying it's "the same fun holiday it’s always been -- with a healthy and sustainable makeover." Backed by groups including the Action Arts League and Dr. Mehmet Oz'sHealthCorps, the Green Halloween party will provide a good time for everyone.

"With headlines screaming about lead in candy, phthalates in costumes, the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, the incredible environmental and human costs of spending billions of dollars on décor that gets tossed, and so much more, the timing was just right," says Colwell-Lipson. "But someone needed to make the greening of Halloween practical, affordable and fun. That’s where we stepped in to start the ball rolling."

Still... and I know I'm not alone here. Halloween with no candy?

OK, while my gut reaction is totally "shut your face," Glaser makes a good case.

"Really, what's 'fun' about candy?... In the ultimate vision, Green Hallloween locations will actually offer more fun -- more art, more interactive experiences and a wider selection of gifts that will actually be more fun to go through than pounds and pounds of the same discounted high fructose corn syrup products," he says. "Think about Halloween pouches seeming more like Christmas stockings and ask which might be more fun? And, by the way, Green Halloween does not advocate 'no candy.' It advocates moderation and more wholesome, natural sugar treats."

"If we only present the problem, it’s hard to get enthused," adds Colwell-Lipson. "For example, one reporter found a kid on the street and asked how he’d feel if people stopped handing out candy. As though on cue, the boy almost started crying – how could people take away his happiness like that? As we said in our book about this story, you could just hear the producers high-fiving one another. They got their story – kids like candy and mean adults shouldn’t try to steal happiness, especially on holidays."

BUT the reporter failed to tell the child (or better yet, show him) the fabulous alternatives that are available. Had this same child been allowed to scope out the new and improved Halloween treats, my guess is that he would have been – like ALL of the other kids we’ve met, head-over-heels thrilled."

The two organizations are helping families participate by encouraging people to get involved on the website, where they can find other local advocates and with the eventual goal of creating green trick-or-treating networks. Colwell-Lipson also suggests making a Green Halloween door sign to spread awareness and help kids find places to get better treats.

People are getting involved for different reasons, but everyone seems to have the same goal: smarter choices.

"I think the older kids who come to our house are surprised/disappointed. But, really, it’s the same," says Susannah Pryal of Sammamish, Wash., is a mom who's been participating since the beginning.

"I felt like such a hypocrite giving out candy, and the 'bad guy,' when I didn’t like giving it to my kids. Plus, I am a candy addict, and I didn’t want candy in my house."

Barbara Keskiner of Tampa, Fla., is helping organize a Green Halloween in her own community and became involved because of her 2-year-old daughter.

"As she has not yet been started on a candy diet on Halloween," Keskiner says, "we don't think that she will miss it!"

Rochelle Maize, mother of Los Angeles' resident "Green Teen" and founder of the Green Youth Movement Ally Maize, says, "This has really become a mother-daughter project for the both of us, and her involvement has made it more meaningful for me."

The Maize family -- their house is pictured above -- will be participating in Green Halloween in a number of ways including a YouTube video for green Halloween tips, informative email blasts to local schools, and by handing out special treats.

"For Halloween," Maize says, "we will be giving out eco-friendly and socially responsible treats like fair trade chocolate and Trick-or-Treat for Trees coupons, which are inexpensive coupons that can be purchased in bulk, and a tree is planted for each coupon purchased. Also, 90 percent of all of our home decorations are either homemade or recycled."

OK. Maybe Halloween can still be fun without all the "king size" sugar hits, which become currency the next day in school. You can still bob for apples, after all. Halloween is an important holiday; it's about fear and overcoming it, and dressing up in crazy costumes -- making the costumes and decorations... it's about whatever you want it to be.

So why make it about consumption and consumerism? Maybe it's time to clean up Halloween.

Visit for more information. (Full disclosure: Tonic is a corporate sponsor of the Oct. 31 Green Halloween festival in New York.)

Inset photo courtesy of the Maize family.



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Copyright © 2009 Ally Maize