Sustainable candy swaps that are more treat than trick

Green Life Trading Co.'s Sasha Stone helps us navigate finding sustainable alternatives to traditional trick-or-treat candy.
Sebbi Strauch F4xl1n7s5bu Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash.

Halloween is a pretty great holiday. Be someone or something — anything — else for a night. Welcome the chill of fall (or perhaps, ghosts). And eat candy until you make yourself sick of chocolate until the next holiday rolls around (like that could ever happen). No one is going to judge you. Still, you have to wonder where all of those tiny fun-sized wrappers are going to end up after Oct. 31 wraps. Not to mention who or what is affected by some of the ingredients that go into our favorite treats.

We checked in with Sasha Stone, owner of Williamson Street’s resident package free retailer Green Life Trading Co., to pick her brain about reducing the waste and environmental impact that’s inherent in the tradition of trick-or-treating. Turns out, the balance between purchasing Halloween treats that parents will approve of (i.e. sealed if edible) and that kids will appreciate is actually not that delicate. Even better news? You don’t even have to ditch all of the classics.

Check the Ingredients
Stone points out that the easiest way to make an impact with your Halloween candy purchasing is to look for sweets that don’t contain palm oil or related ingredients. The harvesting of palm oil is a major contributor to deforestation and habitat loss for many vulnerable species  — and it’s in many popular Halloween candies, plus much of the food we eat. Stone says, “Palm oil-free candy is the more sustainable choice that won’t get your house TP’ed by angry trick-or-treaters.”

Some examples of candy that doesn’t include palm oil include Hershey’s milk chocolate and dark chocolate bars, Jolly Ranchers, York Peppermint Patties, Sour Patch Kids, Ring Pops, Airheads, Dum Dum suckers and Nerds. Although, if you want to be sure with some of these food giants, check the packaging and confirm that ingredients with “palm” (palmate, palm olein, palm kernel oil, palm oil) are not on the list. You can always count on Black Forest gummy bears, Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, Tony’s Chocolonely’s “Tiny Tony’s” and YumEarth products to be palm oil-free. Perhaps they’ll also be a new favorite?

Think About Packaging
If you think about how much candy is handed out on Halloween, those wrappers start to stack up in the landfill. Search around for Halloween candies that come in cardboard boxes and foil. In some cases this can mean a little more upfront cost, but then again, Nerds and Junior Mints are also packaged in recyclable cardboard, they’re confirmed crowd-pleasers and generally easier on the wallet. Two that you might not be quite as familiar with offer better packaging alternatives: Simply Gum makes chiclet-style gum that comes in a cardboard package (and you can find it at Target) and Alter Eco makes bite-sized truffles in compostable wrappers. Stone even suggests passing out mini cans of soda. There’s still a full sugar rush there but when the cans are empty, they can be pitched in the recycling bin.

And another great suggestion from Stone: “Clementines. [They] are a great sweet treat that comes in its own wrapper, you may not be the most popular house but the parents will appreciate it.”

Even Better Than Candy?
OK, there may not be anything better than candy on Halloween night. That’s not to say that kids wouldn’t enjoy other useful, intentional treasures. “You don’t want to be known as the house that gives out toothbrushes … ” Stone says. Agreed. However, many kids still enjoy a box of colored pencils or crayons. Or a little piece of homemade jewelry. Buy a big box of Pokémon cards and let kids fish for a few. The possibilities are endless, and just a bit more guilt-free. Get creative for the planet.

Emma Waldinger is associate editor at Madison Magazine.

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