It’s high time we got scared of the environmental impact of Halloween.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend $ 3.32 billion on Halloween costumes this year. Most of them will be inexpensive disposable costumes sold by retailers like Spirit Halloween and Walmart. About 83% of the materials used to make these costumes are derived from plastic. And many will be discarded on November 1. In the UK, a study found that 7 million costumes are thrown away each year, potentially the equivalent of 83 million plastic bottles. In the United States, which has five times the population and where Halloween is a more popular holiday, that number will be significantly higher.

The good news is, you can still have a fun Halloween without adding to that waste. In fact, you can take a page from the Halloweens of the past, when disposable suits weren’t the norm. “When I was young, we made our costumes or bought them in thrift stores,” says Aja Barber, author of

I get the allure of a pre-made costume. For people like me who face creative challenges without any crafting skills, the idea of ​​creating a costume from scratch seems daunting. Fortunately, help has arrived. Four years ago, Tiffany Beveridge, director of content at children’s clothing startup Primary, started a free Halloween costume concierge to help people make their own costumes from clothes they already own ( and which can be made into ordinary clothes after the holidays). The company has a helpline and an email address where people can ask for advice on how to make costumes, both for adults and children, from scratch.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a greener costume this year.

[Photo: courtesy Primary]

Give yourself time

Part of the appeal of the ready-made costume is that you can grab one at the last minute. But Beveridge says making your own costume doesn’t take as long as it looks. Many people can make an awesome costume in just half an hour; more advanced costumes may take a day. However, it takes some planning to determine the supplies you need. And more broadly, it’s worth re-conceptualizing the whole process. You should think of it as a fun and relaxing project, which can be much more enjoyable than a simple shopping trip. “You can’t beat the sense of accomplishment you get when you’ve successfully created your costume with your own hands,” says Beveridge.

It is also important to remember that perfection is not the goal. Beveridge says the point is to have a good time and get closer to the person or object you’re trying to create. And remember, store-bought costumes aren’t very good either. Many are cheesy and don’t really look like the character they’re trying to portray.

[Photo: courtesy Primary]

Sky is the limit

Most retailers stock up on a popular costume set, which is why every year you will see so many witches and Spider-Men. Beveridge says another benefit of making your own costume is that it can be one of a kind.

You can have a fun brainstorming for ideas on how you might want to express yourself: do you want to get scary or funny? Do you want to do something topical (like a Pfizer vaccine) or do something classic (like Scooby-Doo)? If you have friends and family who also want to dress up, you can have fun imagining a group costume. Were you a fan of Between two Ferns? You can play the part of Zach Galifianakis and have two of your friends play the part of plants. Or there are more conceptual group costumes. For example, you and your friends could dress all in green and be Gangrene.

If you are looking for inspiration, there are plenty of places to look. You can search for DIY Halloween costumes on Pinterest and Instagram. Primary also has a DIY costume catalog on their website.

[Photo: courtesy Primary]

Focus on waste reduction

Even when creating your own costume, it is possible to generate waste if you cut out really good clothes or modify them in such a way that they cannot be reused. To avoid this, be strategic about how you design your outfit. Beveridge recommends using a monochrome outfit as a base; for example, a T-shirt and leggings in one color, which you can then adorn. If you don’t have these pieces in your wardrobe, you can buy them and wear them again in the future.

Rather than permanently altering these clothes, use double-sided tape to secure parts on top, such as colored felt, cardboard, pom poms or tulle. If you and your team want to spend Halloween in a bundle of crayons, you can dress up in different primary colors, then use double-sided tape to add the word “Crayola” to black paper. To complete the look, wear pointy party hats or make cardboard cones. If you wanted to be a condiment family, you could dress up in red, yellow, and green and then print the huge logos for the Heinz ketchup, mustard and relish on a color printer, which you can affix to the t-shirt. You got the idea.

[Photo: courtesy Primary]

If you can’t

If you just can’t bring yourself to make your own costume, don’t despair. “There are so many approaches that aren’t just about going to the store,” says Melissa Breyer, editorial director of the sustainability website Treehugger. “And you can always have a great vacation with funny costumes.” She recommends scanning second-hand sites like Facebook Marketplace or your local Buy Nothing group. You can also look for a second-hand costume or retro outfit at your local thrift store. Finally, if you really want to make a good impression, you can rent a costume from a site like Halloween Costumes, rather than buying one.

Remember that every little bit counts

Considering the immensity of the waste produced every Halloween, it may seem that trying to be more sustainable isn’t worth your time and energy. “There’s a whole Halloween industrial complex that pushes its marketing to you,” Breyer says. “It takes resistance to oppose it. “

But it’s worth it, say Breyer and Barber. On the one hand, you are declaring within your community that it is possible – and even fun – to avoid cheap disposable costumes. “You might not be making a difference as a single person, but when hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people stand against the over-consumption machine, it can make a difference,” says Barber.