A bowl of colorful bulk candy representing waste free Halloween candy with festive decor in the background.
October 18, 2023
 in 
Lifestyle

15 Eco-Friendly Halloween Treats: A Guide to Sustainable Candy for Trick or Treaters

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ome might say that Halloween is all about the costumes but let’s be real, it’s a national candy holiday. You can get away with not dressing up or decorating your home with gourds and ghouls but when the trick-or-treaters come knocking, you better have some candy ready lest you enrage the children.

All jokes aside, handing out candy is an unmissable tradition that can bring whole communities together for a night. The problem is that even the sweetest treats often have a trick to them. In 2022, Americans bought about 600 million pounds of candy in the lead-up to Halloween. With only about 5% of plastic waste recycled each year in the USA, the vast majority of last year’s Halloween candy wrappers likely went straight to landfills.

Packaging waste is a huge problem at this time of year, as are the ingredients in many popular Halloween sweets. That’s why it’s so exciting to see how many brands are popping up with zero-waste candy options and just generally more eco-friendly Halloween treats.

Keep reading for a full guide on why sustainable candy matters, what to look out for when purchasing treats, and 15 of our favorite picks for ethical Halloween candy. Spooky season is about to get pretty sweet …

Table of  Contents

What is Sustainable Halloween Candy?

When it comes to eco-friendly Halloween treats, the two most important factors to consider are what the treats are made from and how have they been packaged:

Eco-Friendly Candy Packaging

While packaging-free candy would be the ultimate win, it’s just not realistic or particularly hygienic when handing out to trick-or-treaters. The next best thing is candy packaging that is naturally derived and biodegradable or compostable. In other words, sweets that come in cardboard, paper, or other plant-based wrappers.

Other types of sustainable candy packaging include foil and plastic that can be recycled. The problem is that plastic wrappers, even the recyclable kind, are made from materials that are derived from fossil fuels and thus contribute to climate issues. Reducing the use of plastic, even in small ways, is worth trying where possible.

Sustainable Candy Ingredients (And What to Avoid!)

It’s not just what’s on the outside of Halloween candy that matters. The ingredients and how they’re sourced also play a significant role in how much of a fright they give our planet. 

Let’s take a closer look at the common additives that are often the sneaky scaries of Halloween candy, what to avoid, and what it means when your candy has a “fair-trade” or “sustainably sourced” sticker on it:

  • Soy Lecithin: This emulsifier is made from soy, a plant with a history of negative farming practices haunting it. Soy agriculture continues to be linked to deforestation issues in the Amazon and closer to home, the destruction of tallgrass prairies in the Midwest. This alone is reason enough to avoid candy containing soy lecithin, but it’s also worth noting that intensive soy farming uses significant water and harmful agrochemicals. If you’re looking to buy more ethical Halloween candy, try skipping items that include soy lecithin or other soy by-products.
  • Palm Oil: Palm oil’s reputation isn’t much better. Palm oil plantations have contributed to the loss of habitat for endangered species such as the Sumatran Tiger, and have been linked to air, water, and soil pollution. Deforestation for palm oil growing has also led to the loss of huge tropical peat forests in Indonesia. More eco-friendly candy will either skip palm oil entirely or only use the ingredient when sustainably sourced. If certified sustainable, it means that the palm oil used comes from a sustainable supply chain that involves no deforestation or destruction of natural ecosystems.
  • Cocoa: Chocolate is a standard Halloween treat, but it has historically played a horrible trick on the people who grow it. Like the other ingredients on this list, Cocoa farming has been linked to deforestation but also comes with major labor concerns. As much as the cocoa business has boomed in recent years, many of the growers have still been left in abject poverty. When you see a piece of candy labeled “Fair Trade Cocoa”, it means that the brand has committed to sourcing cocoa through a transparent and sustainable supply chain. Growers are better compensated, natural resources are taken care of, and there’s an overall commitment to more ethical practices.

As a last point, when it comes to ingredient selection, going organic is yet another way to ensure you’re buying eco-friendly Halloween candy as it means that fewer agrochemicals are used which helps cut down on the associated water and soil pollution.

Why Switch to Sustainable Candy?

Halloween is one of the most mystical, magical nights of the year. It’s not often we get to play dress up and run around on sugar highs. Switching to eco-friendly Halloween treats simply ensures that all the fun you have doesn’t accidentally play a horrible trick on the environment.

Jump-scaring a friend in a ghoulish mask is hilarious. Waking up to streets littered with plastic waste is just plain terrifying. 

A Checklist of What to Look for When Picking Out Sustainable Candy

To sum up everything we’ve gone through thus far, here’s a quick checklist of what to look for when you’re picking out sustainable Halloween candy and some extra tips for good measure:

  • Avoid products with soy lecithin if you can.
  • Look out for “fair trade” cocoa.
  • If there’s palm oil in the candy, check if it’s sustainably sourced.
  • Prioritize candy in biodegradable packaging and if plastic’s unavoidable, just make sure it’s recyclable.
  • Small batches and handmade candies usually involve more ethical, low-waste production methods so support smaller brands when you can.
  • Big brands like Mars, the company behind M&M’s and Snickers, run recycling programs over Halloween. Investigate the brands you’re buying from to see if they offer something similar.

Finally, have fun with it. Candy should still feel like a treat so get the things you or your trick-or-treaters will enjoy most.

15 Candy Options for Eco-Friendly Trick-or-Treaters

Here are some of our favorite sustainable and zero-waste candy options for the season:

1. Equal Exchange Chocolate Minis

Eco-friendly candy: Equal Exchange Chocolate Minis in milk chocolate

 Mini dark and milk chocolate bars that are available in large cardboard display boxes. 

Eco-Friendly Stats: Fair Trade cocoa and sugar, certified organic, soy-free, plastic-free packaging with outer wrappers made from recyclable paper. 

2. Glee Gum

Eco-friendly candy: Glee Gum

All-natural, vegan, and sugar-free gum that comes in a variety of fun flavors. 

Eco-Friendly Stats: Natural flavors, recyclable and plastic-free packaging, verified non-GMO.

3. YumEarth

Eco-friendly candy: Yum Earth organic halloween candy pack

This kid and allergy-friendly candy brand offers all kinds of eco-friendly Halloween treats.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Soy-free and non-GMO ingredients. Packaging is not recyclable but most of their products are made in LEED-certified factories that are powered by renewable energy.

4. Ocho Candy

Eco-friendly candy: Ocho candy halloween variety pack

Individually wrapped candies that are available in Halloween-themed variety packs.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Fairtrade certified, organic, and non-GMO.

5. Unreal Candy

Eco-friendly halloween themed peanut butter cups  made by Unreal Candy

Snack-sized chocolate bars and peanut butter cups.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Soy-free, uses organic and sustainably sourced palm oil, non-GMO, and recyclable packaging.

6. Endangered Species Chocolate

Eco-friendly candy bars by Endangered Species

Individually wrapped, vegan, and gluten-free dark chocolate “bites”. 

Eco-Friendly Stats: Recyclable packaging, Fairtrade cocoa, Green-E Certified, and verified non-GMO. Also gives 10% of profits to organizations that support conservation efforts eg. National Forest Foundation.

7. Surf Sweets

Eco-friendly candies by Surf Sweets

All-natural, allergy-friendly gummies that we’d recommend decanting into smaller paper bags to give out to trick-or-treaters – here’s a quick tutorial on making some.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Minimum of 1% of gross sales donated to ocean conservation and other causes, certified USDA organic and non-GMO ingredients, and recyclable packaging.

8. Alter Eco Chocolates

Eco-friendly and organic halloween candy by Alter Eco

These gluten-free chocolate truffles are a slightly fancier version of the typical zero-waste candy.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Soy-free, compostable and recyclable packaging, Fairtrade, non-GMO, and organic.

9. Junior Mints Mini Boxes

Junior Mints candy with Eco-Friendly packaging

If you still want a taste of a childhood classic, go for the Junior Mints mini boxes. The ingredients aren’t great, but the packaging is.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Plastic-free, recyclable packaging.

10. Milk Duds Mini Boxes

Milk Duds Minis with sustainable candy packaging

Another trick-or-treat classic with less-than-ideal ingredients but low-waste packaging.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Plastic-free, recyclable packaging.

11. Tiny Tony’s

Eco-friendly candy by Tiny Tony's

Small chocolate bars that make for the perfect sustainable Halloween candy.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Fairtrade cocoa and sugar, recyclable packaging.

12. Sun & Swell Bars

non candy halloween treats by Sun & Swell Bars in fudge flavor

An all-natural, healthier non candy treat option for this year’s eco-friendly Halloween.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Organic ingredients and 100% compostable packaging.

13. Sjaaks Halloween Treats

Eco-friendly candy by Sjaaks in this halloween themed variety pack.

Artisanal, hand-made chocolates available in all kinds of Halloween-themed shapes and flavors.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Recyclable packaging (but depends on the exact product), Fairtrade cocoa.

14. Jed’s Maple Candy

Organic and Eco-friendly candy by Jed's Maple in halloween themed shapes

All-natural maple Halloween candies.

Eco-Friendly Stats: Uses Organic maple syrup and recyclable packaging.

15. Buy Bulk and Make Your Eco-Friendly Candy Packaging

An example of bulk candy, a great choice to decrease halloween candy packaging waste.

The one downside to many of the organic and more sustainable candy options is that they can be more expensive than traditional candy. If you’re struggling to find eco-friendly Halloween treats to fit your budget or just struggling to find them at all, consider buying ordinary candy but in bulk to limit waste. Loose candy that is not wrapped in foil can be packaged with recyclable twine and craft paper to be handed out.

Treat the Planet Right

Hopefully, you’re going get some seriously cute trick-or-treaters knocking on your door this year. Making sure the sweets are sweet enough for them is one thing, but contributing to a healthier planet is another way to do right by the kids. Whether that’s buying candy with recyclable packaging or sticking to Fairtrade and organic ingredients as well, every little bit is a chance to treat our planet and its future with more care.

Let’s spread the joy this spooky season, not litter. Happy Halloweening!