How to Dispose of your Halloween Pumpkins
Pure Earth Pets Eco-Friendly Practices for Halloween Pumpkins
Did you know that over 1 billion pounds of pumpkins are tossed into the trash and sent to landfills every single year? In fact, most of the pumpkins grown in the United States are used for decorations instead of as food. In this blog post we will explore why sending pumpkins to landfills is harmful to the earth and offer eco-friendly ways to dispose of your pumpkins after Halloween.
The Environmental Impact of Halloween Pumpkins
According to Science Alert, “Of the nearly 2 billion pounds of pumpkin grown in the United States in 2014, an estimated 1.3 billion pounds were simply trashed instead of eaten or composted, according to the US Department of Energy.” Many people might think that this is not a big deal since pumpkins are natural and will decompose. However, the decomposition adds to the problem, instead of making it better.
When produce is thrown away into the garbage, it sits in landfills and produces methane gas. Cambridge Carbon Footprint, states that “Between 30% and 50% of greenhouse gases are related to food and agriculture.” In a post by Let’s Talk Science, they write, “Scientists believe that if we stopped throwing away food, we could prevent 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by the food system.”
Eco-Friendly Halloween Pumpkin Ideas
Carving jack-o-lanterns is often one of the best parts of Halloween for children, including removing the slimy inside “guts” of the pumpkin. Instead of throwing the insides of the pumpkin into the trash, you can eat all of what is inside. Pumpkin seeds are a delicacy for many households, tossed in olive or vegetable oil and some salt and roasted in the oven.
However, the stringy pulp is often discarded, but it can be used in recipes like breads, muffins, smoothies, and vegetable stock. Your dog will also love the pulp of the pumpkin, and it is a great source of fiber. You can puree it and put it in his/her food or bake it into pumpkin dog biscuits. There are an endless number of recipes that you can find for humans and dogs on Pinterest and Google. We even found ideas to use the pumpkin pulp as a facial mask – for humans, of course.
The actual “meat” of the pumpkin is also edible for humans and dogs, although we know that eating a pumpkin that has been sitting on your front porch for a week is not very appealing or safe. If your goal is to consume the entire pumpkin, we would suggest using it in an indoor display for a few days without carving it or decorating it in any way. That way you can avoid squirrels nibbling at it and trick-or-treats touching it before you use it in a recipe.
How to Dispose of Your Halloween Pumpkins
If you have not used paint, markers, glitter, or any sort of varnish or chemical substance on your pumpkin, you can dispose of your pumpkin in several eco-friendly ways. If you have used any of these man-made and hazardous decorations on your pumpkin, you should put the pumpkin in the actual garbage so that animals do not try to eat it and to keep those substances out of your compost bin.
If you have a compost bin at home, you can cut your pumpkin into smaller chunks and place them into the compost bin. According to Earth911, if you do not have an official compost bin, “Dig a hole in a garden bed or in your yard and add the pumpkin. Replace soil over the hole and let the compost take place naturally through the winter. A pumpkin can also be placed in an unused part of the yard on top of the soil and covered with leaves.” Of course, if you are a dog owner, you should avoid doing this in a part of the yard that your dog can access, as he/she might be tempted to dig up the pumpkin and eat it.
Depending on where you live, and if your pumpkins are not rotting, you can often donate pumpkins to wildlife rehab facilities and zoos. Depending on the animals at the facility, fresh pumpkins can be enjoyed as snacks or enrichment items. Other municipalities have pumpkin smashing events and pumpkin drop-off sites. After the pumpkins are collected (smashed or whole), they are composted.
If you live in a rural area, you can chop your pumpkins into smaller pieces and leave them in the woods for wildlife to enjoy. Don’t put the whole jack-o-lantern into the woods, though, as some animals could become stuck if they were to put heads or whole body inside the pumpkin. Just like with the composting ideas, avoid placing your leftover pumpkins where your dogs can get to them. Dogs do not have the most discerning palette and the last thing you want is for your dog to eat a rotting pumpkin that they found on your property.
Have you found creative or delicious ways to use the pumpkin pulp or the “guts” of your pumpkin in recipes for you or your dogs? Share them with us on our Facebook page or tag us with @pureearthpets on Instagram.