Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Support of Green Halloween

Late last week, I had the opportunity to learn about Green Halloween. I spent some time reading through the website, trying to figure out the basic principles and ideas behind the movement, and also trying to figure out who is behind the movement. I'm still not sure who's behind it aside from "EcoMom Alliance" which I'd never heard of and haven't had much time to research--but they dub themselves
"a non-profit 501.c.3 organization empowering mothers to create a healthy and sustainable world."
"We are dedicated to offering fun, healthy, affordable, not-too-time consuming ideas that will support your goal of creating a Halloween that is happy and healthy for your kids and the planet we all share."

I'm not sure I support them yet--not without doing more research (sorry ladies)--but I do support Green Halloween. One of the major goals that started the Green Halloween movement was to move two children (yes, just two, totally manageable) toward healthier choices and candy-free treats at Halloween. According to the story on the website, what one mom wanted was a sign that would let parents know if a house had healthy (or at least non-candy?) treats. Brilliant.

I remember the houses that had non-candy treats from my own childhood--and no, they weren't handing out toothpaste either (though I did get pill boxes one year). And I remember wanting to be that house (to some extent, we were--my parents passed out small toys from fast food (here you should roll your eyes a little) that I didn't want, or leftover party favors, or whatever in place of candy sometimes) and how I thought about how I'd want to be that house when I was an adult.

But then, for me, I don't remember the best part of Halloween being the candy. I loved getting dressed up, getting scared, seeing neighbors dressed up. It was a night meant for the imagination.

And maybe this, the idea of getting permission to engage in imaginative exploration of the night, is why I feel so dis-enchanted by Halloween as an adult. I think it got lost at some point, perhaps when I decided I was too cool for Halloween. Earlier today, I had a talk with a friend about this--he said he became too cool for Halloween in 5th grade, which is I think about the same time I stopped wanting to wear costumes. I sill don't particularly like to think up costumes and create or buy them--I'd rather devote that energy to something else (though I must admit, when I see a costume I really admire I become jealous that I didn't think of it). I am bored by the consumerism of most holidays. I'm not engaged with the "Hm, it's a holiday. You know what would be fun? Binge drinking" attitude of many of my friends and fellow adults--and this is true for most holidays. And I'm concerned about the fact that this generation of kids--and the generation I'm in as well--are expected to have shorter lifespans than our parents*.

This last point in particular is something that I've been trying to work against. As you might've noticed, if you'r ea regular reader of this blog, I'm not wholly focused on healthy foods. But do we really need to give kids another excuse to eat candy? And for that matter, do we really need to give kids chocolate that destroys tropical rain forests and was likely harvested through child labor (unless you're handing out fair-trade, rain forest friendly chocolate) or focus on the concept of very cut & dry, no shades of gray "good v. evil" with little [insert your personal villain here] running around? Probably not.

Right now, I feel conflicted. Where I live now, Halloween is a very big deal. It's a reason to party and everyone wears costumes. The businesses pass out candy and other treats to kids, the local science museum is hosting a spooky science event, the libraries have been holding storytimes, Rocky Horror screenings, and much more. Take what most towns probably do and compound that. By a lot. It's hard not to get sucked in a little.

But I've also been trying to live, more or less, by the philosophies listed on the Green Halloween website (kid healthy, planet healthy, people friendly) for more than year now, and in some ways, have been trying to live this way for a large chunk of my life. I was an early environmentalist, at least to some degree. And I've been pleased by the increasing prevalence of green grocers, farmers markets, CSAs, etc., in many communities--I would like to see these trends continue to increase. I would like to see programs like PlayWorks continue to spread (as one person I know from PlayWorks said, "People don't play anymore."). I would like to do my part in promoting these things, which at least today, means blogging about it. And hoping that maybe you'll consider participating in Green Halloween.

I won't spend time rehashing the things listed on the Green Halloween website (party ideas, trick-or-treat treats, costumes, etc.). And I don't want to come across as preachy. If you can only make one change, you should make the one that makes sense for your family (and, at this point, considering how close we are to Halloween, the one you can still pull off). My contribution to Green Halloween this year -- I won't be passing out candy (but that's due to budgetary constraints) at the Halloween event I'm attending meant for "safe" trick-or-treating.

My less than perfect M&M experiment -- took too long
to add the yellow & blue M&Ms after the green.
And, since I've seen this in the past week also, if you need additional reasons to get behind Green Halloween, try this simple experiment. Take 3-4 M&Ms of different colors. Fill the lid of a screwtop jar with water. Place the M&Ms on the lid and watch what happens to the ink. Then, read this.

Maybe most disturbing: the Ms, really do contain titanium dioxide. You can also find that in sunscreens. And you know, things like semiconductors (plus many other food stuffs). And, in Florida, mining titanium dioxide is destroying the wetlands--search Google Earth for "Trail Ridge Mine, Stark, Florida" and look at what's going on. Maybe also read this article from Salon, published in 2008. There's probably not a real health risk--or at least one hasn't been identified. We consume--directly and indirectly a lot of it.

Titanium dioxide accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.
I didn't know any of this until I started researching for this post--and as Andrew Leonard, the author of the Salon article points out, he is complicit in this destruction because so many things we use on a day-to-day basis contain titanium dioxide. He is complicit. And so am I.

*Many studies acknowledge that this is still based to some degree on the likelihood of (in)activity of the child as the child ages. Childhood obesity factors in, but adult lifestyle decisions also play a part. These studies don't, however, seem to look at the increasing environmentally based issues that aren't  necessarily related to weight and so we'll just have to see who's right in a few decades.

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