Monday, October 31, 2011

Trash From Your Halloween Candy Shouldn't End Up In a Dolphin's Belly

The Ocean Conservancy and it members and volunteers endeavor to preserve our oceans whenever possible. Now that the first Nor'easter has blasted into NY, NJ, Mass. and Conn, setting historic records and pulling the plug on Con Ed, PS&G and other utility customers with a pre-winter, pre-Halloween goblin-like ferocity, the conservancy has some tips for Halloween and its after-effects that also will come in handy year-round.
Halloween candy and wrapped items that can become trash in the oceans.

Of course, the problem is trash and litter that can wash into storm drains and travel all the way to the ocean. And Halloween is a real trash burner from candy wrappers to decorations and costumes, except you can't burn paper trash any more, right? So the conservancy has listed some easy ways for everyone in the family to reduce their trash output during this scary time. That way, you and your kids feel good, and so do the ocean's creatures.
 Going trick or treating with the kids?
Why not reuse a pillowcase (have the kids decorate it...if it's an old one) instead of buying a plastic candy container. Or, if you really want to be innovative and artistic, use any larger container from a used-up food item, i.e. plastic milk container. Then get out the permanent markers, paste and colored paper and start your kids and their friends to decorating. When they're done, hold a contest for the best decorated container in the family or amongst friends. Of course, don't forget to recycle it after they've devoured the candy.
An additional way to make them feel good about helping the planet with their endeavors and forestalling any "smart mouth" who might try to "put them down" for their efforts. To any kid who makes negative comments about their container, they can say something like, "I'm conserving the oceans. What are you doing for marine habitats?"
Want to save some money?
I know, I know. merchandizers prey upon your kids, forcing them to coerce you into buying the "coolest costume on the block."   Again, turn these behaviors around to benefit a good cause. Using stuff in the house, have them create their own ocean-themed costume: i.e. sea creatures, sea monsters. For example you can make a jellyfish by attaching strips of bubble wrap around the outside of an umbrella. For a sea urchin, dress in black and tape cardboard triangles to a bandana. You can always go as an ecosystem and tell people that unfortunately, the trash in your costume is part of that ecosystem.
If your child does go as a marine animal and adults/kids ask about the outfit, your child can give the animal/fish a name (Seth, the sea horse). Proudly, they can tell these inquisitors that their costume is a reminder for folks to stop ocean trash build-up and preserve the oceans' creatures.
House Decoration
Decorate your house as a spooky trash gyre. Paint skulls on bottles or other items and make ghosts from plastic bags. For  trick-or-treaters who come by, explain the symbolism of the decorations. Also, don't forget to keep a trash can next to the door so they can dispose of candy wrappers since they’ve probably been snacking on treats along the way.
Contain Your Own Trash
In addition to your innovative trick-or-treat candy containers and artistic costumes, think about bringing a separate trash bag to collect candy wrappers you might see on your Halloween journey. Make it a fun challenge for your kids to collect as much trash as they see. And of course, at home, encourage your kids to keep all of their Halloween candy wrappers in a box, so stray wrappers aren't blown by the wind and washed down the street drain in the fall rains that eventually make it to the oceans. After combining everyone's wrappers, then  either throw them away, or if you are really ambitious and inspired by your helpful efforts, send/take them to Terracycle. There, the wrappers will be made into something new like a purse or a pencil case.
You don't have to be an ocean lover to do one of these fun activities with your kids. But you will be doing your part in educating them that their actions have consequences. Don't they want to be sure that the consequences are beneficial? This grown up and responsible behavior can make Halloween even more fun.
The bottom line is this. "Bottle caps, cigarette butts, candy wrappers" seem insignificant and such "tiny trash can appear harmless. The truth is, it has a BIG impact on wildlife when it reaches the ocean." (The Ocean Conservancy) And it will get there if it is in the street. Try to do your part for Halloween and educate your kids along the way. Years from now, they will have seen the difference, as will you!

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