The Spookiest Thing About Halloween (and What We Can Do About It!)

Despite having busy lives at school, students still love being festive and celebrating Halloween by wearing a costume, so this year the Zilkha Center partnered with the Free Store to offer a more sustainable way to do so. Close to one hundred students came by the Free Store costume swap to explore the secondhand costume options and to trade in old costumes for other students to claim and reuse. The costume supply was made possible by a donation from the ’62 Center that donated a rack of costumes previously used by the drama department. The general atmosphere was one of excitement as dozens of students went away with costumes they could be excited about and proud of. The Zilkha Center hopes to continue this partnership with the ’62 Center and the Free Store to make this an annual event so that Halloween can be a spooky, exciting, and sustainable event for students for years to come.


What do you picture when you think of Halloween? I picture the leaves changing, pumpkin spice lattes, midterm stress, scary ghoul masks, and the like. But what many of us probably don’t picture is the metric ton of plastic waste that comes with the end of October – literally! According to Waste360, roughly 2,079 tons of plastic Halloween costume waste was sent to landfills in the US in 2022

As many of us already know, consumerism significantly increases during holidays, and Halloween is unfortunately no exception. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, purchases of decorations, candy, and costumes contribute to an increase in the amount of waste produced by households during this time. As stated by Chris Rose, an environmental consultant at Fairyland Trust, “the scariest thing about Halloween nowadays is the plastic.”

Student trying on an astronaut costume, with two thumbs up.
Chris Flores ’26

Chris has a point – according to a study conducted by Hubbub Environmental Group, approximately 35 million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year in the US alone. Most of these costumes are made of synthetic fibers like polyester, which are comprised of a type of plastic made from petroleum that can’t be recycled. In other words, most Halloween costumes are cheap, plastic, and disposable. In fact, the amount of plastic waste from costumes thrown out in a year is equivalent to around 83 million plastic bottles. It doesn’t get much spookier than that. 

With this knowledge in mind, we can help reduce our negative impact on the environment by reducing our contribution to holiday consumerism. It’s incredibly helpful to be mindful of waste production and to intentionally employ methods for responsible consumption while doing your holiday shopping. The negative impacts of holiday consumerism shouldn’t stop us from celebrating holidays in fun and creative ways! Here at the Zilkha Center, we want to promote more sustainable alternatives without detracting from holiday fun. For example, there are tons of great ways to make an amazing Halloween costume while significantly reducing your environmental impact. You could make a costume out of clothing you already have, buy your costume items secondhand, or upcycle old clothing to create a new (spooky) look!

Sean, EcoRep intern, and Christine, Sustainability Coordinator, trying on costumes
Sean Morrissey ’24, EcoRep intern at the ZC and blog post author (left) with Christine Seibert, ZC Sustainability Coordinator

This year at the Zilkha Center, we wanted to help reduce waste and promote circularity on campus during Halloween. So we came up with a plan to provide students with access to a more sustainable alternative to buying one-time-use Halloween costumes online. We got in contact with the Free Store and the ‘62 Center, who provided us with a venue and gently-used costumes. Then, we hosted a secondhand Halloween costume swap in Upper Goodrich, during which students came in to take free costumes, and left old costumes that they no longer wanted. In doing so, we helped reduce the amount of unnecessary waste produced by Williams students this Halloween! 

Moving forward, we aim to continue our efforts in reducing holiday consumerism and unnecessary waste. As the winter holiday season approaches, we encourage members of our community to celebrate these holidays with sustainability in mind! For tips on how to do this, check out this blog post written by former ZC communications intern Quentin Funderburg ‘25.


Yunae Zou and Sean Morrissey, EcoReps interns at the Zilkha Center