Two weeks after Halloween, the true horrors of the holiday have finally come to settle in the streets—strewn with the wreckage and debris of trick or treaters, who have long since fled the scene of their attacks, shed their disguises and swallowed what evidence remains of their neighborhood raids. However, not all evidence has been disposed of. In fact, a significant amount of it remains, scattered around the suburbs, like Willie Wonka’s ashes.
Candy wrappers have come to rest in every crevice, every crack in every sidewalk, and congested every storm-drain. Whatever waste didn’t drain to the bay in Monday’s rain now occupies the sidewalks, driveways, gardens, lawns and parks of Redwood City (where I live), as if to protest last week’s post on zero-waste consuming.
In stark contrast to the packaging-free grocery store in Germany I reported on last Saturday, as usual, the USA dedicates one day a year to celebrate the core and fundamental values and customs of this country—over-consumption, excessive waste, obesity and greed. Scary, indeed. Every October 31, children nationwide take to the streets, armed with empty bags to fill, and fill them they do. And the dumps and landfills too.
Dare we try to quantify the damage? Let’s do some mental math. How many households do you think participate in Halloween? Many of which supply several bags of candy. How many assorted bags in all were purchased on behalf of Halloween? How many individual “treats” does that amount to? Each one individually wrapped. How many candy wrappers had to be produced to satisfy the national demand? I honestly have no idea, but you can bet it isn’t zero. A far cry from the waste-free lifestyle that I described last Saturday.
Yet we persist this wasteful custom year to year. Even our holidays and family traditions have evolved to represent the wickedness of our ways—selfishness, entitlement, immediate gratification… Children marching house to house demanding candy, expecting it, and worse yet, receiving it. Their greeting is misleading: “Trick or Treat?” It’s a command under the pretense of a question. We reward them, and for what? Even my dog has to do a trick to earn a treat.
Dare I say (of course I do) conditioning our children in this way just cultivates an expectation of getting exactly what we want from strangers who don’t owe us anything, and has already manifested a sense of entitlement in my and prior generations. Just look at Elliot Rodger, or the Christian outcry for a more Christmas-specific Starbucks cup, as if the Christmas color scheme isn’t exclusive enough. Just look at all those little shits on leashes pretending to be kids that are actually just tantrum-throwing “Gimme-more!” machines, the spoiled seedlings of future consumers and budding CEOs of future corporations. Rapists.
But I digress. Halloween can’t be held accountable for our entitlement and arrogance. However, our holidays have been persistent perpetrators and purveyors of waste—Halloween candy wrappers, wrapping paper, chocolate Valentines—the list goes on. The US has a compulsive packaging obsession, and it’s about time we address it.
Next year, you’ll find me handing out kiwis, oranges and bananas, pre-packaged as they are in natural wrappers, 100% compostable, not to mention considerably more nutritious than a Snickers, and arguably even more delicious. I won’t be very popular, no doubt. No problem. More for me. And whatever I can’t finish, I’ll feed to the worms, and spare the landfills.