ITHACA NY – With Halloween just days away, two Cornell University researchers recognize some parents may still be unprepared for the spookiest day of the year. They’re offering last-minute tips on finding a pumpkin that will last as a decoration or centerpiece, and suggestions for creating last-minute costumes that are inexpensive and environmentally sustainable too.
Pick a pumpkin you’ll be proud of
“It’s pumpkin season,” Cornell horticulture professor Steve Reiners acknowledges, and the good news is that despite a summer of weather extremes, many “growers have an excellent crop in 2023.” He encourages parents to buy “pumpkins from a local grower (as) a great way to support local farms” and also find worthwhile specimens of all sizes.
“Choose pumpkins that are firm with no soft spots, Reiners suggests. The stem or ‘handle’ should be hard. Healthy pumpkins that are uncut can last through Thanksgiving. If you want to carve them as jack-o’-lanterns and keep them perfect for Halloween, don’t cut until a few days before. Once cut, the decay process begins and they only last about 7 to 10 days.
Want to delay the inevitable? Reiners advises “adding a teaspoon of bleach to a quart of water, and spraying the inside of the pumpkin and all cut surfaces daily.” That should slow decay a bit, he adds.
Dress creatively, sustainably for the holiday
“The best Halloween costume is one you make yourself, according to Denise Green, director of the university’s Fashion + Textile Collection. “With growing interest in sustainability and reuse,” she adds, the rising trend is “for creative and clever costumes that embrace innovative refashioning of existing materials.”
Unique costumes made of recycled materials “make the most dramatic impact. You can let your creativity become a conversation point.”
- “Refashion a cardboard box into a computer costume,
- Become a robot out of tin cans,
- Create angel wings with wire hangers and recycled paper, or
- Simply add ears and a tail with a pink bow to an old gray hoodie” to transform anyone into Eeyore, the fictional donkey from author A. A. Milne’s “Winnie The Pooh” books, Green says.
“Why contribute to further waste,” she adds, “when you can turn detritus into a point of discussion for the night? Everyone loves creative effort. Why waste resources on something you’ll wear only once?”