Tips For Making Zero Waste Halloween Costumes

Tips For Making Zero Waste Halloween Costumes

Oct, 08, 2023

Tips For Making Zero Waste Halloween Costumes

Halloween is just around the corner. Whether you have children or are a child at heart, the spookiest holiday of the year can be great fun. Unfortunately, Halloween often creates a lot of waste, but it doesn’t have to! In this post, we’ll cover ways to have a zero waste Halloween without sacrificing the best parts of the holiday.

Tips For Making Zero Waste Halloween Costumes

Dressing up for Halloween is a great joy for many and allows us to display our creativity and favorite characters. These days, seasonal shops and department stores sell flimsy, poor-quality costumes made from polyester and plastic and last only one year. While this trend is certainly disheartening, zero-waste costumes do exist. In fact, they provide an opportunity for adults and children alike to use their creativity in crafting the perfect costume. 

To create a zero waste, eco-friendly costume, avoid buying anything new. Instead, use what you already have. You can also borrow or use recycled or upcycled materials. 

Utilize Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are a great place to source clothes, accessories, and shoes for costumes. Look for pieces that can be worn year-round. If you plan to make them into new costumes by altering them (i.e., tearing them up, covering them in fake blood, etc.), buying stained, ripped, or damaged items is a great way to upcycle and save money. 

Upcycle and Recycle 

Use your recycling bin as inspiration! This is an especially great way to get children involved in creating their own costumes. Look for items that can be painted, colored, and cut up, such as egg cartons, cardboard, tin cans, aluminum foil, bottles and caps, and other clean or easily cleaned recyclables.  For example, shredded brown paper bags or packing paper make perfect scarecrow hair and stuffing. 

Make your own 

Another way to make your Halloween sustainable is to make your own costume! It’s not as complicated as it might seem. I have found that my kids enjoy making their own costumes and usually are quite creative. One year, they made cowboy costumes with two hats they found at a thrift store. Another year, my daughter created a Pippi Longstocking costume with a wig she borrowed, mismatched socks, and an apron. Yet another year, she was a folk dancer. My son made a math problem costume with all black clothes and white math problems glued all over like chalk. You can make a ghost from a white sheet and pale makeup, a monkey by attaching ears to a brown hoodie and a tail to brown pants, and a zombie with a dusty suit and scary makeup. Start collecting items for dress-up and costumes in a box, like wigs, hats, bandanas, clothes, and glasses. Here are some classic costumes that can be worn year after year: 

  • Witch
  • Vampire
  • Frankenstein’s monster
  • Werewolf
  • Clown
  • Scarecrow
  • Ghost/ghoul
  • Bride
  • Pirate
  • Devil
  • Zombie
  • Skeleton
  • Mummy
  • Animals
  • Pumpkin
  • Robot

Borrow and Swap

Every year, we send out an email letting other families know what we have to borrow or swap. We also ask around to borrow someone else’s old costumes. This is a great way to circulate children’s costumes, share in your community, and keep costumes out of the landfill. 

Make-up and Accessories to Complete the Look

Halloween costumes can be as easy as a basic outfit with simple, reusable accessories and a killer makeup look. Accessories like hats, glasses, and a mustache can really top off a costume. For makeup, skip the seasonal store makeup, as it is often low quality, contains questionable materials, and is packaged in unnecessary plastics. Plus, making your own face paint for Halloween is easy and budget-friendly. When it comes to application, there are many makeup tutorials available online.

Here are a few ways to make your own face paints from ingredients you might already have at home. 

For homemade paint, combine the following: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup lotion
  • ¼ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Food coloring

For natural food colors, use these:

  • Green: spirulina powder or puréed spinach or avocado with a squirt of lemon juice 
  • Red: cranberry juice or beet powder
  • Yellow: turmeric
  • Orange: carrot juice
  • Pink: Dragon fruit powder 
  • Purple: seedless blackberry or blueberry jam, or puréed and strained blackberries or blueberries 
  • Brown: instant coffee or cocoa powder


Mash the paint ingredients together to form a smooth paste. Separate this basic white paste into several batches if you need a variety of colors. Mix any of the colored ingredients into the paste. After the paste has dried on the skin, dab a little coconut oil on the surface. 

To create scary warts and wounds, combine:

  • 1 ounce of plain unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons of boiling water

Stir and let it sit for three minutes. Next, pour the mixture onto wax paper or a similar surface. Quickly shape the gelatin to form your wart or scar. Add a few drops of red food coloring for a wound or green for a witch’s wart. You can be creative by adding a bit of corn syrup, oatmeal, coffee grounds, or even some paintbrush bristles. Once your creations have dried, adhere them with corn syrup—but first, let the corn syrup dry.

It’s best to make these on the same day the costume is worn. Children will love learning how to prepare the final touches of their costumes.

Here are more zero waste halloween ideas and halloween treat recipes

Fredrika Syren

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