With statistics showing that our wasteful Halloween habits are a little bit frightening, we ask the team behind the Pumpkin Rescue campaign for some eco-friendly tips.
Image: Anita Austvika
With Halloween just around the corner, we've been looking at lots of clever recipes using pumpkin to make use of the innards that would otherwise go to waste, but did you know that 51% of people in a recent study said they didn't view a pumpkin as food?
We talked to Tessa Tricks, head of food at environmental campaign charity Hubbub, about the Pumpkin Rescue campaign, to what extent Halloween pumpkins contribute to food waste figures and how we can have a more sustainable Halloween in 2019.
Why was the Pumpkin Rescue campaign set up?
Brits bin a whopping 8 million pumpkins at Halloween. Further to this, while 58% of Brits buy Halloween pumpkins, more than half of these people throw the innards straight in the bin. A previous study, commissioned by Hubbub also revealed that more than half of the nation’s pumpkin buyers are calling for recipes to help them make more of their leftovers. By highlighting how many pumpkins get thrown away without being eaten, we hope to get people thinking about the food they throw away more generally.
People may think that pumpkins are an eco-conscious decoration as they’re a natural product, why is eating them so important?
Pumpkins are not just Halloween decorations but are a tasty and versatile food, which takes a lot of resource to produce. Food waste is damaging to the environment, our pockets and is a moral issue at a time when so many go hungry.
Half of people in the UK have never eaten pumpkin before, while 6 in 10 said they wouldn’t know how to cook pumpkin. Some pumpkins are labelled 'carving pumpkins' which puts some people off eating them, but they are actually still edible and can be turned into a delicious soup with a flavoursome stock cube or added to bulk up a stew.
Every pumpkin eaten is a step towards tackling the 7.3 million tonnes of food and drink that is thrown away from UK homes every year. Fruit and veg make up 19% of avoidable household food waste. Wasting this food costs £810 a year for a family with children. If we stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the benefit to the planet would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.
What has the campaign achieved over the years it’s been running?
Since starting in 2014, the Pumpkin Rescue has created 239 local events and workshops attended by a total of 18,600 people. This has led to a whopping 17,500 pumpkins being diverted from landfill. Millions more have been reached online and through the press, creating a movement of people eating their 'gourd-eous' pumpkins. This included; food stalls, cookery demos, children’s workshops, pumpkin archery, carving competitions, amateur theatrics, seed saving, pop-ups compositing sessions, you name it.
How can we get involved?
Eat your pumpkin! Pumpkins are really versatile and can make delicious soups, curries, pies, breads and cakes. Pumpkin goes with lots of flavours – chilli, ginger, honey, orange, sage, cumin, coriander and more. They can replace sweet potato or butternut squash in many recipes. If you can’t use your carvings straight away, then steam and freeze them. They will also last a few days in the fridge if you steam them first.
No one wants to eat a pumpkin once it’s sat with a candle in its belly for days. We’d recommend you compost your pumpkin, put it in food waste recycling or turn it into a bright bird feeder.
You can also find a Pumpkin Rescue event near you or even run one next year!
Do you have any other tips to help make Halloween celebrations more sustainable?
39 million people in the UK are expected to dress up for Halloween this year, spending a total of £510 million on costumes alone! With 7 million Halloween costumes ending up in the bin according to statistics from 2016, save yourself some time and money this Halloween - there are lots of ways to dress to kill this year without spooking the planet. Recyle an outfit or do a costume swap with friends or through a local Facebook group. Opt for a costume in a natural fabric and avoid nylon, polyester and viscose. That way you’ll have a comfier/less sweaty Halloween and be safe in the knowledge your costume won’t take ages to biodegrade.
Inspired to clean up your Halloween act? Tweet us @goodhomesmag or post a comment on our Facebook page.