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Michael DeJong Headshot

Halloween? Bah, Humbug!

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Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy festive holidays as much as the next person, but we eco-freaks can't help ourselves from sucking the fun out of things -- particularly when it comes to harming children.

Do you remember growing up and the only thing to worry about on Halloween was getting an apple with razor blades in it? First of all, what an Urban Myth. All one kid needed to do was point out which house gave out the fatal fruit, and the entire neighborhood would have been out with pitchforks and flaming torches. And, if anyone on my Halloween route had the nerve to stick a piece of fruit in my Trick-or-Treat bag (razor blades or not) I'd have put it in a paper bag, lit the bag on fire, rang the bell and ran. What kid wants fruit?

So now we come to my fun-sucking dilemma. For the sake of full disclosure, I feel it's important for me to admit that as an adult I hate Halloween. The thought of being in a parade or at a party with drunken strangers in masks is like some people's irrational fear of clowns--it just gives me the willies.

But Halloween, everyone says, is for the kids. And let's suppose for the sake of this blog that that's true. Here is how I see it:

1. Jack-o-Lanterns: Thanks to years of Martha Stewart one-upping herself each Halloween, carving a traditional buck-toothed, triangle-eyed pumpkin just doesn't cut it anymore--it's your kid's equivalent to having last year's X-Box games. So, one either has to have the carving talents of Rodin, or else Mommy goes to the big box store and buys one of those foam "pumpkins" made in China from God-knows-what toxic petrochemicals. The carbon footprint of making, packing, and flying that fake gourd alone could prevent us from ever reaching 350. And now that we no longer carve real pumpkins from the pumpkin patch for fear of being accused of All Hallows Eve banality, we lose out on one of Mother Nature's greatest once-a-year secrets--scraping the pumpkin seeds out, rinsing them off, sprinkling them with salt and then baking them at a low temperature until they are toasty, golden, and crunchy delicious. Foam pumpkins don't even come with foam seeds.

2. Costumes: Here, you have your two types -- Mommy-made or store-bought. Mom-made costumes are going the way of the horse and buggy, 8-track tapes, and analog clocks. First, most of the mom's I know, if they are lucky enough to be employed, are the second breadwinner in the family, and are too exhausted to sew and dye fabrics that any self-respecting six-year old wouldn't be caught dead in. Show of hands--how many moms out there even know how to sew or have a sewing machine? And when did "What Tiffany is wearing for Halloween" become the equivalent of the Bar Mitzvah wars? Now stores of all stripes have racks and racks of adorable, perfectly appointed ready-made costumes that can put mom back anywhere from $15 to $50--and in today's economy, that ain't hay. But what's worse is that unlike pajamas that were mandated to be flame retardant years ago, the materials that most store-bought witches, ghost and goblin get-ups are made from can't be made fire retardant--100% nylon, acetate and acrylic tend to resist flame retarding, and foreign made materials often have unknown chemicals in them to enhance bulk or texture. These "unknowns" can cause problems. So not only isn't junior's Frankenstein or Spiderman costume not flame retardant, it's also off-gassing into his poor lil' pores.

3. Mask or Make-Up? Neither is a good choice for a little one. Remember when you were a kid and you got one of those hard plastic masks with the rubber band that went over your ears and behind your head? And do you remember how wonderful it smelled when you had it on--kind of a kid's version of new car smell. Well, now we know that when plastic smells, watch out--there's toxins in them thar' masquerades. And let's say that you are one of the lucky mom's with kids still young enough to go for the bed sheet-turned-into-ghost costumes. No sewing required, just a scissor to cut out a hole for the head, and to trim off the bottom so baby Justin doesn't trip over himself trying to carry all his trick-or-treat booty home. Well, little Justin can't just have his everyday head sticking out of that ghostly sheet--who would that scare? So, mommy either buys ghoul make-up at the local drug store, or pulls out her old discarded Revlon, Cover Girl, Maybelline, etc., from the bottom of some forgotten bathroom drawer, and paints the kid's face. For anyone concerned about the chemical contents of make-up, I refer you to Womens Voices for the Earth's report, "Pretty Scary," about the heavy metal content in make-up made specifically for kids at Halloween time (http://www.womenandenvironment.org/pdf/PrettyScary_Oct2009.pdf) as well as their report "A Little Prettier" as part of their ongoing Campaign for Safe Cosmetics investigations and lobbying efforts to make the adult cosmetics industry manufacture healthier products (http://safecosmetics.org/search.php).

And if you wanted to be creative in a retro sort of way, and make a mask out of a brown paper bag, try and find one made from either recycled pre- and post-consumer waste or one made with paper approved by the Forest Stewardship Council. Most are still made from virgin trees.

4. The Booty: And even though the "razors in the apples" scare has died down, parents warn their children to not eat anything that is not store-bought and wrapped in its original foil or plastic hermetically sealed protective coating. Industrial sized bags are now available for sale at every big box store and large supermarket. As a kid, my favorite Halloween treat was Candy Corn--and not the yellow, orange and white ones either--no sir--the neighbors that gave out handfuls of the yellow, orange and brown Candy Corn were my heroes. Today, loose candy is immediately thrown away when mom and dad investigate the contents of the night's take. So we're left with individually wrapped miniatures of 60s classic candy bars, and by the time little Allison can unwrap one of those impervious Tyvak-like wrappers, her arms, already tired from carrying the haul home, are numb, and her little fingers are frostbitten from the sudden drop in temperature between 6:00 and 10:00 pm, and she just thinks, the heck with it, I'll handle this in the morning, only to wake and find mommy and daddy sprawled out on the living room floor in a massive sugar crash from having eaten all the goodies. It's probably for the better because mommy has already indoctrinated 10-year-old Allison that she is too fat and if she wants to be the next Miley Cyrus she had best be dieting and not eating all that sugary crap.

5. TPing: Oh the days when throwing roll after roll of toilet paper into the neighbor's tree brought endless joy, and belly-aching, roll-on-the-ground laughter. However, for the 21st Century eco-minded, not just any TP will do anymore. And since the only eco-friendly TP readily available is Seventh Generation, at $2.99 or more a roll, this "trick" is not only wasteful, but becomes a major investment.

But never fear, another Halloween will soon come and go, and lest we even try to hold onto our memories of All Hallows Eve, three weeks ago, the candy aisles were already empty, the only costumes left on the racks were the ripped and rejected, and ever since Columbus Day, it's been beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Bah, Humbug!

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