Making Halloween Less Scary for the Environment

The spookiest time of the year is nearly here, but the real fright-fest of Halloween aren’t the ghouls and goblins, but rather its negative impact on the environment. According to a recent study by the National Retail Foundation, Americans are spending a scary amount of money on the fan-favorite holiday, with an estimated $8.8 billion expected to spirit away from consumers’ bank accounts this year alone.

Whether you’re deciding on costumes, buying candy, zipping between costume parties or hosting your own, there are a variety of ways to make your Halloween celebrations a little less frightening for the environment and to continue applying these strategies to the way you live every day. Here are some helpful tips to consider for turning your Halloween into “Hallow-green.”

  • DIY Costumes – You’ll want to avoid buying store-bought costumes that are often made up of nonrecyclable, petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers that release harmful toxins in their creation and breakdown. With a little creativity, boxes, paper bags, plastic water bottles and items around the house can be upcycled into costumes at little or no cost. If you’re looking for inspiration, be sure to check out Pinterest for countless ideas for turning different materials into homemade costumes. Going for a greener option this Halloween will ultimately help to improve the air quality.
  • Host a Green Halloween Party – Consider sending out electronic invites to your Spooktacular event instead of paper to help keep the air clean by saving time, postage and trees. When shopping for supplies, look for recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils rather than the kind that end up in the trash, and put out recycling bins for any bottles and cans. Take your party to the next level by turning out the lights and lighting some candles – it’ll save energy and add to the spooky atmosphere!
  • Green Up Your Halloween Pumpkins – Don’t let your jack-o’-lantern end up in a landfill once Halloween is over. Remember to compost your pumpkins to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that result from rotting in landfills. Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, save the pulp from inside for pies, muffins, soup and other tasty recipes, as well as the seeds that make for a great fall snack when roasted with a little oil and salt!
  • Hit the Streets for Trick or Treat – Rather than drive to other neighborhoods to take the kids trick-or-treating, stick close to home this Halloween and walk from house to house to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. If traveling by car is really the only way to join in the Halloween fun with your family or friends, try carpooling to do your share for cleaner air.

Do your part by making sustainable choices this Halloween and continue to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle to help people all across St. Louis breathe easier every day, not just on special occasions. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the tips section of our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: St. Louis College of Pharmacy and COCA

With fall in full swing and the threat of a Red or Orange air quality day behind us for a while, the importance of taking action to help keep the air clean may not be top of mind. But we think it should be something people focus on year-round. With that in mind, we’re continuing to recognize businesses and organizations that have gone to measurable lengths to engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impact through their participation in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge (GBC). This month, we shine a spotlight on St. Louis College of Pharmacy and COCA for their sustainable innovations and efforts to make environmentally conscious practices a focal point in their communities and help clean our air in the process.

St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP) has been preparing students for expert practice and leadership in pharmacy and health professions careers for over 150 years. As current and future health professionals, faculty and students at STLCOP know the importance of healthy living and how environmental practices directly relate. Thus, the group has been an active participant in the GBC and received the Achievement Award in the Star Circle of Excellence and an Award of Merit at the Leader Level in 2018.

STLCOP students created an organization – Sustainable STLCOP – that leads the campus in green initiatives. Sustainable STLCOP successfully held one large paper-recycling event on campus and continues to work towards raising their paper recycling efforts each month. Another notable initiative at STLCOP includes new copier programming aimed at reducing on-campus printing by 22 percent. The College has also seen a nearly 40% reduction in off-site printing costs since the implementation of the programming on July 1, 2018, showing that greener choices can be as good for the balance sheet as they are for the environment.

To raise awareness for these initiatives, STLCOP has created their own Green Team to engage students, faculty, staff and alumni in creating a sustainably-minded campus community that focuses on environmentally friendly living in their day-to-day lives.

Another GBC finalist in the “Leader” track is COCA, a nonprofit whose arts-based events, training, and programming encourages people to see, think and express themselves in new ways. As the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the country, the organization annually serves more than 50,000 people of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels.

COCA is committed to doing its part to make St. Louis a great place to work and live, which means caring for the environment for future generations. The nonprofit has taken many steps to preserve energy, recycle, reduce waste, and go green, striving to continually take action to reduce their eco-footprint and remain attentive and thoughtful about how they use their space in an environmentally responsible way.

As part of recent renovations, COCA converted nearly 200 lights from incandescent to LED. Now, approximately 47% of all COCA’s interior light fixtures are LED. During the renovation, all appliances in COCA’s kitchen were replaced with new ENERGY STAR high efficiency models, and its kitchen and hospitality stations have been equipped with reusable dishware and utensils to discourage the use of disposable versions of these items. In effort to help improve indoor air quality, air purifying plants were also added in communal spaces, including meeting rooms, lobbies and offices!

To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by St. Louis College of Pharmacy and COCA, as well as how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, visit

Turn Your Key and Be Idle-Free for Back to School Season

Now that cooler fall temperatures have made their way to the region, you may be faced with the temptation to idle your vehicle more than usual, particularly with the kids settled back in school and part of your day spent back in the carpool line. While it may seem impossible for drivers to avoid this altogether, vehicle idling by buses, students, parents, teachers, staff and delivery vehicles creates unnecessary pollution at schools. It’s especially important to remember to “turn the key” and “be idle-free” at schools because children are more susceptible to air pollution as their lungs are still developing, making them more vulnerable to the impacts of vehicle pollution than other populations.

Each year, idling engines produce thousands of tons of toxic pollution, including air toxins which are known to cause cancer, respiratory and reproductive effects, birth defects and various other health concerns. Exposure to car exhaust can also aggravate asthma symptoms. With asthma ranking as the most common chronic illness among children and the cause of most school absences, vehicle idling poses a serious threat to young lungs everywhere.

You might also be surprised to learn that:

  • Idling for longer than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine.
  • Two minutes of idling uses that same amount of fuel as driving one mile.
  • Most people waste as much as 1-2 tanks of gas every year by idling.
  • Idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling at 30 mph.
  • Every gallon of gas wasted produces over 20 pounds of air pollution.
  • Many buildings have fresh air intake systems to pull outdoor air into the indoor environment. If vehicles are idling alongside or near the building, indoor air can become polluted with exhaust.

In an effort to curb the amount of vehicle idling in the St. Louis metropolitan region, the Clean Air Partnership has created a campaign designed to help encourage area businesses, schools, governmental entities and other organizations to implement no-idling policies and post no-idling signs, demonstrating their commitment to helping our community be idle-free.

If you represent a business, government entity, school or other organization, consider engaging your constituents in making the pledge to “Turn Your Key and Be Idle-Free” by placing no-idling signs in your parking lots, near bus and carpool lanes, passenger drop-off lanes, delivery areas or any other location where idling is an issue. By working together, we can help eliminate unnecessary idling in the St. Louis area and help the region breathe easier!

To request a no-idling sign, contact Susannah Fuchs of the Clean Air Partnership at 314-449-9149, or via email at [email protected]. For more information on other anti-idling initiatives and additional steps you can take to help improve air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.