Happy Green Halloween!

By Analiese Paik

Candy or no candy? That is the question on Halloween. I’ve reached the conclusion that it really is okay to give kids candy in moderation, once in a while, as long as it’s done with a clear conscience. The problem with Halloween is there is no moderation, thereby complicating things.

If you want to give candy to trick-or-treaters, it’s important to know that child labor and slave labor are two pervasive practices in the chocolate industry, making most conventional chocolate an unacceptable and unsustainable choice in Halloween candy (and candy in general). Additionally, candy bars, lollipops, gummy and hard candy and other popular Halloween treats typically contain sugar (which may now come from genetically modified sugar beets), corn starch and corn syrup (likely made from genetically modified (GM) corn), partially hydrogenated oils (including soybean which is likely GM), artificial colors and flavors, etc., etc . It’s just too scary!

My solution is to buy bags of individually wrapped single serve portions of organic and Fair Trade chocolates, treats, raisins, or pretzels. Buying Fair Trade certified foods is a consumer vote against unfair and inhumane labor practices. Choosing organic is not only the best way to avoid pesticide residue, but also a guarantee that foods are free of sugar from genetically modified sugar beets, GMO corn derivatives, and otherwise undesirable ingredients that we choose not to feed our children (and give to other children). True, bulk bags can make us wince just thinking about the waste from excess packaging, but they’re mandatory in today’s society where we look askance at anything unwrapped or wrapped at home. Who touched it? Is it tainted? Dirty? Yuck!

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s currently available in stores:

Organic Halloween candy and single serve snacks can be found in nearly any grocery store these days, and there are budget-friendly options.

Organic lollipops:

* Best Value: Trader Joe’s is selling USDA Organic, fruit-flavored lollipops for $2.99, right near the register.  There is no count on the container, which is recyclable, but mine had 26 pops in it.

Stop ‘n Shop has Yummy Earth USDA Organic fruit-flavored lollipops which “may” contain carrots, black currants, apples and pumpkin! They’re on sale for 2 for $4.00, but at 15 count per bag, they’re still not cheaper than Trader Joe’s.

Whole Foods Market Fairfield has sold out of their Yummy Earth USDA Organic bagged lollipops, probably because they were on sale. Bulk containers of 150 Yummy Earth pops for $19.99 are slightly more expensive than Stop ‘n Shop’s (as long as they’re on sale 2 for $4.00).

Organic bulk candy:

Neither Whole Foods Market Fairfield nor Mrs. Green’s had bulk bags of organic snacks or chocolates, but the new Shop Rite in Fairfield has Annie’s USDA Organic Bunny Fruit snacks in bulk bags of 24 for $5.49. They’re double the price per serving of a lollipop (23 cents), but you also get a lot more.

Organic single pack raisins:

Both Mrs. Greens and Whole Foods Markets sell six packs of single serve USDA organic raisins, but Whole Foods Markets’ 365 value pack is much cheaper at $2.69 than the Newman’s Own pack selling for $3.99 at Mrs. Green’s. You’re still paying 45 cents per box though, making them a luxury purchase.

Trinkets are rather inexpensive and something I always offer, sometimes to the exclusion of candy.

Most years I take a more balanced approach and offer revelers a choice between a small trinket, a quarter, and a sustainable treat. Finding a small and fun yet inexpensive top, decal, puzzle, tatoo or Halloween-themed pencil is easy at Party City. Today I picked up a 120 count tattoo mega value pack for $5.99, 6 sticker strips for $1.49 and 12 pencils for $1.99. The tattoos are 5 cents each, making them a great value and something to occupy little hands instead of candy. As for how green these treasure are, I can’t say, but they’re better in my mind that adding more sugar to an already sugared up child. I’ll still offer quarters this year, because they’re the most sustainable choice. I didn’t need to go anywhere to buy them, they can be distributed without fear just as they are, nobody is going to throw them out, and maybe, just maybe, one will be the quarter that completes some child’s state quarter set.

The Halloween dilemma, however, involves both the giving and receiving of candy. I let my kids get their “yayas” out trick-or-treating with the agreement that there will be a Good Witch exchange of the candy stash for a toy or game of their choice. Many years ago a friend told me about this annual ritual practiced in her home, and I immediately co-opted it. The exchange must be made in full within three days. My kids never say no. They get a new toy or game and I get to stop worrying about them ingesting chemicals that can damage their health. (Okay I admit to ransacking their bags to remove the worst offenders.)

What to do with the bags of “Good Witch” candy though? Nobody should be eating them, I know, but some groups are collecting unwanted candy to send to our troops abroad. Some years I hide the bags in my closet and then ultimately toss them, reasoning that they’re stale and nobody would want them, or they could make someone sick. I hate how wasteful that is. I’m counting the years until my kids will be old enough to have Halloween parties at home and I can convince them to bob for apples that have coins tucked inside, something I remember fondly from my youth.

How will you be greening your Halloween this year?

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