3 Tricks for Turning your Halloween Pumpkin “Green”
Crisp mornings, pumpkin spice offerings and changing leaves let us know that Fall is upon us and with it, Halloween. According to the Halloween Industry Association, 49.2% of Americans decorate for Halloween and nearly as many carve pumpkins. Over 1 billion pounds of pumpkins are used each Halloween for decorating and carving. But once the trick-or-treaters clear, the majority of those pumpkins are sent to the dump, amounting to a colossal sum of food waste and greenhouse gas emissions!
But you don’t have to be frightened by this statistic. There are three easy ways to make your Halloween pumpkin more eco-friendly.
1. Eat it!
Pumpkins are incredibly nutritious. They are packed with the provitamin beta-carotene (that’s how they get their telltale hue), which your body turns into vitamin A. They are also rich in other vitamins and minerals but low in calories. The first step to harnessing the power of pumpkins is the seeds, which are loaded with magnesium, zinc, protein, amino acids, antioxidants and omega 3s. Enjoying these nutritional powerhouses is a breeze. Simply spread them on a baking sheet and toast at 300 degrees for about a half hour. Pumpkin flesh can be incorporated into desserts, soups, salads, preserves and even used as a substitute for butter! If you go to allrecipes.com and search for pumpkins, you’ll find over 1,000 recipes using this winter squash, which is technically a fruit.
2. Recycle it!
Once Halloween is officially over, there’s no need to trash that sagging pumpkin or aging jack-o-lantern. It can be recycled for wildlife. Many backyard animals will eat pumpkin flesh if you cut it into pieces and leave it out. Please do not leave painted pumpkins out for wildlife as the paint may contain harmful toxins.
If you don’t eat the seeds yourself, they can be left out for birds and other wildlife to enjoy. Simply dry them out and place them on a flat surface, such as a tray or shallow bowl. You can also mix them in with existing bird seed in your garden. Make sure to leave out the salt and other seasoning!
The pumpkins can also be converted to bird feeders (“snack-o-lanterns”) by filling them with the dried pumpkin seeds and other birdseed.
3. Compost it!
If even a small percentage of the 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the U.S. each year could be diverted from our landfills, it would amount to a significant reduction in the greenhouse gas, methane. Composting pumpkins also reduces the amount of leachate from landfills, since pumpkins are 90% water. As water from solid waste is released during decomposition, it percolates through the landfill, collecting all kinds of potentially nasty soluble materials along the way. Leachate from landfills must be carefully managed and specially contained to prevent it from contaminating groundwater. In addition, composting pumpkins returns valuable nutrients to our soil. The resulting compost helps retain soil moisture and prevent erosion. These are all good things for an agricultural state such as Pennsylvania.
Composting pumpkins is simple. Since they are mostly water, they decompose quickly and easily, especially if you break them into smaller pieces. Be sure to remove any stickers, candles or wax. If you already have a compost pile or bin, simply throw the pumpkin in. If not, find an out of the way spot in your yard for the pumpkin’s final resting place. A sunny spot is best as it will speed up the composting process. Once the pumpkin is smashed or broken up into smaller pieces, cover it with a layer of leaves and let nature take is course. You can also leave your pumpkin in the woods for wildlife or bury it. Another option is to check with local farms and municipalities to see if they collect pumpkins for composting or municipal waste energy generation.