Vail Daily column: Do we treat or do we trick and give non-candy treats? |

Vail Daily column: Do we treat or do we trick and give non-candy treats?

Cassie Pence
Greener Pastures
Vail, CO Colorado

For many parents (and dieting adults), the scariest part of Halloween is the inevitable sugar rush. Bowls and bowls of individual wrapped candy bars suddenly appear on desks and countertops, like some sinister fairy from Mars candies has broken into every reception area in America.

But as usual, it’s not the candy maker to blame. The average person will spend $20.29 on Halloween candy this year, according to the National Retail Federation. This horror statistic is inspiring some people to redefine Halloween with a healthy glow.

In Butler, PA, Middlesex Presbyterian Church is throwing a Healthy Harvest Party featuring absolutely no candy, just homemade treats like pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and Norwegian apple cake.

There’s even a non-profit that’s popped up to help make Halloween a little bit more down to earth. Created in Seattle with official cities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Tampa, Daytona Beach and New York, Green Halloween seeks to help communities make traditionally un-eco-friendly holidays more sustainable while continuing to support consumerism. “Think outside the conventional candy box,” Corey Colwell-Lipson says on the Web site, founder of Green Halloween.

The Web site ( has a marketplace of Fair Trade costumes, artisan made decorations, candy-alternative treats and energy efficient lighting options. It also gives ideas for homemade costumes using reusable goods. Since most of those costumes that come in plastic bags contain conventional toxic dyes that pollute waterways and petroleum-based products that contributes to our dependence on oil.

Sustainable costumes are an entirely different subject for an entirely different column. We’re talkin’ candy: Do we treat or do we trick and give the non-candy treat?

I grew up in the ’80s when it was completely acceptable to roam the neighborhood way past dark filling an entire pillowcase full of candy. You would return home, freezing, nose running, and dump the candy out on the floor and proceed to eat (after your parents checked for needles) until you felt sick.

But even this nostalgic, loving memory could not convince me to buy candy for a recent pumpkin-carving party I hosted. It wasn’t the sugar that spooked me – it was the waste. Candy wrapped in brightly colored foil, and then wrapped in individual plastic bags, and then wrapped in larger plastic bags – bags and bags that line the holiday aisle in City Market – had me feeling sick, as if I did eat the entire bag of candy. I just couldn’t do it, so I went home and made homemade cupcakes and cookies instead.

This party was for mostly adults. Would I deny a child the experience of trick-or-treating, collecting a rainbow of candy loot in a plastic pumpkin, just because it creates a ton of waste? Probably not. Sorry, green Halloweeners.

Lucky for us who grew up in the ’80s and want our kids to have the same sugar rush and sugar crash we did, there’s TerraCycle, a company that takes waste, like candy wrappers, and “upcycles” it into usable eco-products, like backpacks, totes, purses, kites and shower curtains. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

Thanks to larger partnerships with big corporations, like Kraft Foods, Frito Lay (Pepsi), Stonyfield Farm, Mars Wrigley and many more, TerraCycle also runs free national collection programs that pay non-profits and schools for their collection of used packaging, such as drink pouches, energy bar wrappers, yogurt cups, cookie wrappers, chip bags. TerraCycle, founded by a 19-year-old freshman from Princeton University, prevents 1000’s of tons of waste from going to landfills.

So concerned parents and schools can start their own candy wrapper brigade by creating a collection team on Town of Vail has partnered with TerraCycle, and for every candy wrapper collected, 2 cents goes to Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. A drop-off location has yet to be determined, but for more information or to volunteer to help the town collect, call Kristen Bertuglia, the town’s environmental sustainability coordinator, at 477-3455 for details.

There’s always the option of giving non-candy treats. Some favorites include money, pencils and toothbrushes, as my neighborhood dentist always did. Dental care did come in handy on Halloween after eating a pound of chewy Sour Patch Kids.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle, although her sweet tooth often trumps her eco-sensibility. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers. Contact her at

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