A Billion Pounds of Pumpkins End Up In Landfills Each Year, Here’s How to Make Halloween More Eco-Friendly

Our Halloween pumpkins are contributing to climate change,  the U.S. Department of Energy warned us in 2015.

Most of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. each year end up in the landfill, the agency says.

Organic waste left to decompose in landfills releases methane into atmosphere. Methane is “a harmful greenhouse gas  with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” according to the agency.

Pumpkins are also very nutritious, making it a shame to waste all that perfectly good food.

So before you toss yours in the trash — or the neighbor kids smash it on your porch — consider nourishing yourself, wildlife, or the soil:

1. Eat it

Start with the seeds. Loaded with magnesium, zinc, protein, amino acids, antioxidants and omega 3s, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped in tiny packages. Just spread them on a baking sheet and toast at 300 degrees for about a half hour.

Make broth. Boil the stringy, slimy stuff from the center in water to make broth for soup. Try adding carrot, celery and other vegetable trimmings for more flavor.

Make Pie or Pumpkin Butter. So this is the part where you might consider buying a smaller “pie” pumpkin, as the larger carving pumpkins are bred for looks, not taste.

This way you could have a pumpkin that serves two purposes — a tiny jack-o-lantern and a nutritious, delicious dessert.

Just don’t carve it until Halloween and puree up the flesh the next day, to make sure it’s fresh.

2. Feed it to wildlife

If you don’t want to eat it yourself, pumpkin makes a great snack for wildlife, says the National Wildlife Federation.

Birds and other small mammals will be delighted to find the seeds scattered in your yard. Don’t salt or season them, NWF warns.

Many backyard wild animals will eat pumpkin flesh if you cut it up into pieces for them. Porcupines will eat it whole.

3. Compost it.

If your pumpkin’s been carved for a few days and it’s starting to rot, composting is a far better option than the dump.

Pumpkins are great additions to a compost pile. They’re are 90% water, which means they breakdown quickly. Here’s how to do it:

Pumpkins are a great part of fall tradition. With modern growing and commerce practices, many food items are seen throughout the year. But pumpkins have kept their seasonality and most are grown close to home. Pumpkins help keep us connected to the best of all of our fall memories.

But pumpkins have become a bit underutilized. They are often bought solely for decoration and carving. Pumpkins have much more to give.

If you have uncarved pumpkins, you may be able to roast the pumpkin seeds or discover all of the flavorful dishes you can make with pumpkins. If you go to allrecipes.com and search on pumpkin, you’ll find over 650 recipes made with pumpkin – everything from pumpkin burgers to pie.

And, if you’ve carved a jack-o-lantern, cool days will allow you to enjoy your art a while longer. But, most of you may have noticed, that it doesn’t take long for Mother Nature to start reclaiming her work.

If you throw the pumpkin in your garbage can, it will likely make its way to a landfill or to the incinerator to be burned with the rest of the trash. This year, you can have a little more fun and nourish your soil by composting your pumpkin. If you already have a composting bin or area, you can add your pumpkin as you would other vegetable scraps.

But, if you’ve never composted before, a pumpkin is a simple way to start.

  • For uncarved pumpkins, remove the insides for cooking (you can also compost the insides; composting the seeds may result in pumpkin plants next year)
  • Remove any candles or wax.
  • Find a spot in your yard for your pumpkin’s final resting spot. This should be out of the way of daily activity. A sunny spot will speed the composting process.
  • Place your carved pumpkin in the spot and smash it a bit or allow kids to have fun smashing it a lot.
  • Cover it with a layer of leaves.
  • And, let nature do its work. Worms will turn your pumpkin into nourishing compost.

This is the easiest way to compost and surprisingly painless. You may not enjoy the smell of a pumpkin rotting in your garbage can, but there’s no bad smell as vegetables naturally degrade in an environment with fresh air and some sunshine.

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