Halloween is coming up and I’d like to create as little waste as possible when giving out treats. However, I also don’t want to be the one house on the block that gives out stuff that kids don’t want. Any thoughts about how to negotiate my kids’ (and mine, too!) favorite holiday?

Want my Snickers and eat it, too


I’m totally with you when it comes to Halloween; excess is built in, so why resist? Except that there are so many plastic, non-recyclable, non-compostable candy wrappers at the end. The go-to zero-waste Halloween advice leans towards disseminating raisins or pencils. However, we all know what happens with these: Your kids and all their friends will merely roll their eyes and seek out the guy giving out full-size Hershey bars down the street. At the end of the day, if you have trick-or-treaters at home, plastic wrappers will likely enter the house, so why not just enjoy the M&Ms and then plan on upcycling the wrappers into wallets or bracelets this winter? (Yes, this is a thing.) Alternately, your kids can collect candy wrappers to send along to TerraCycle (, which upcycles plastic products, including Snickers wrappers! You can also talk yourself into trying to figure out which treats have the least amount of waste, as I do, and then indulge extravagantly as you toss deconstructed Junior Mint and Dots boxes into the recycling bin.



How do I get rid of junk mail? Right now I recycle it, but it would be even better if I didn’t get any at all.

Junk-mail junker


Ridding one’s household of junk mail is not for the faint of heart. It takes months and years of perseverance and patience, but you can significantly reduce the load. And it’s totally worth preventing the millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases produced in service to junk mail annually. Here are a few thoughts:

• Register for all of the Do-Not-Mail lists out there, including Catalog Choice and

• Call charity groups, small companies and nonprofits directly and ask to be taken off their mailing lists.

• Write “Please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address” on warranty cards, subscriptions, credit card applications, and the like.

Lisa Botshon is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, where envelopes are routinely reused. Send her queries at [email protected]

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