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The Resource

Keyword: repurpose

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Photo of a carved pumpkin

Americans will spend about $9 billion this Halloween on costumes, decorations and candy. Most of this merchandise is single use and comes in packaging that can’t be recycled. In fact, the amount of Halloween waste we generate each year is downright terrifying. But fear not! There are lots of creative ways to green your Halloween and save money while having a ghastly good time.

Buy pumpkins, gourds and cornstalks from local farms, nurseries or farmers markets. Have a green goblin thumb? Grow your own next year. And don’t waste those pumpkin guts – use the flesh in recipes and roast the seeds for a healthy snack.

Swap, Buy Used or Upcycle

Swap, buy used or create upcycled decorations. You’d be surprised by how easy it can be. It took me less than 30 minutes to transform a selection of sweet-faced knick-knacks into a motley crew of creepy décor using a little paint.

You also can swap, buy used or make upcycled costumes. Use ingredients you have at home to make face paint. Next September, host a Halloween costume swap party.

Use up arts and crafts supplies by upcycling buckets, pillowcases, cans, t-shirts, gift bags or reusable totes for trick-or-treating. Trick or treat in places you can reach on foot or by public transit.

Keep Treats in the Bag

Please don't litter! Parents—bring a bag and gloves or grabber tool to pick up litter along your trick-or-treating route. Your little ghosts and ghouls shouldn’t be leaving a trail of candy wrappers in their wake. Want to help keep ours a clean green county year round? Clean streams and public lands with your local watershed association, do a Clean Green 15 pickup in your community, or get your group to participate in the Adopt-A-Road program.

Having a Party?

Send invitations electronically. Serve locally-sourced food and drink. Buy fair-trade chocolate. Use reusable linens and kitchenware. Serve witches’ brew or Frankenpunch in drink dispensers instead of beverages in bottles and cans. Use a meal planning tool to determine how much food to prepare. Store leftovers in reusable containers and (actually) eat them. Put out a recycling bin and ask your guests to use it. Visit the County’s website to find out what is and is not accepted for curbside recycling collection.

Use leftover candy in baked goods, ice cream sundaes, snack mixes, cereal bars and more. Use your imagination, or try one of many recipes found on Pinterest.

A few last words: If you purchase new items for your Halloween celebrations, look for products and packaging made with recycled content. Most importantly, be safe and have fun!

Have a Green-o-ween idea you’d like to share? Send it to

This article originally appeared in The Resource newsletter in October 2018. Visit the County’s website to subscribe or read The Resource blog online.

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Department of Public Works

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans generate 25 percent more waste. Not only do our celebrations, decorations and gift giving create more trash, but they can cost a lot, too. That means now is a great time to find ways to save money and waste less, such as upcycling items you already own.

Artist Liz Burnett and five upcycle project participants.In November, artist Liz Burnett led several county employees and residents in a workshop to make holiday wreaths from old sheet music and broken jewelry. A MICA graduate, Liz is a versatile artist specializing in jewelry, crafts, murals, illustration, graphic design and photography. She sells upcycled jewelry and art through her business, Schlegel Bagel Design. She also offers classes on how to make one-of-a-kind creations out of things people have around the house.

While her first love is painting, Liz said two things inspired her to start making upcycled art. First, she cares deeply about the environment and wants to reuse as much material as possible rather than buying everything new. Second, she wants to save money. “I needed to make things without spending a lot of cash,” she said. “I liked the idea of reusing things destined for the dump that still had some life, and it was a challenge to make the most beautiful things for the least amount of money.”

When it comes to materials, Liz’s favorite to work with is broken kitchenware. “It has so many possibilities to be turned into something new,” she said. Her favorite piece is a necklace she made from broken Pyrex someone sent to her from New Zealand. “You can’t get the pattern here, and it’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s called, ‘Red Poppies,’ and the bowl was red with a dark purple flower print.”

The upcycle project.As for the upcycle workshop, none of the participants had attended one before, but it didn’t take them long to get the hang of it. In under an hour, each person created a unique paper wreath made with 95-year-old sheet music, beads and hot glue. You can see photos from the workshop and find step-by-step instructions for the paper cone wreath and paper flowers online.

Everyone said they learned something from the experience:

It never occurred to me that you could make something beautiful out of 95-year-old paper! – Sharon

You can take something old and make it new while having fun together as a group. – Ella

I especially liked learning to reuse paper, something we think of as immediately recyclable, creatively to make something that will last. – Natalie

This workshop was a wonderful reminder of how much more fun things can be when done as a group. The ladies of the old fashioned quilting bees had it right. – Kathleen

All of the participants said they’d attend upcycle workshops in the future, and they even offered up some waste prevention tips of their own:

  • Use reusable containers to carry your lunch instead of plastic food storage bags. Keep a recycling bin in more than one room in your house. – Natalie
  • Use items like old boots and buckets as planters. Take building fixtures, wood and other construction debris to The Loading Dock, which builds homes with the material. Make a Maryland-themed decoration from cleaned blue crab shells by painting them any way you like. They look great as beach décor or even a Christmas wreath or ornament. All it takes is a little imagination! – Sharon
  • Buy used Christmas ornaments at yard sales and thrift stores, or round up ones you already own, and upcycle them with craft supplies. Use plastic shopping bags to weave mats and rugs. – Ella
  • Purchase products in reusable packaging whenever possible. For example, I buy a brand of jams and jellies that come in a glass mug. Go against the grain of our modern “throw-away” society. Go old school in your thought process; back to basics. And learn to sew. – Kathleen

Do you have upcycle projects or waste prevention ideas you’d like to share? Send them to 

Follow Liz Burnett on Instagram at @schlegelbagelburnett. Find more holiday upcycle ideas on Pinterest. For waste prevention tips and strategies, follow Clean Green Baltimore County on Facebook or visit the County’s website.

Oct 2019
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Revised October 25, 2019