Seasonal Sustainability: The Jack-o’-Lantern

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 13:07:04 PM America/Los_Angeles

Every year, millions of pumpkins are carved for Halloween festivities only to be tossed out after the 31st. But are we preemptively throwing out these seasonal squashes? Rethinking how we use jack-o’-lantern scraps helps reduce food waste and the production of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. What’s more, carbon emissions rise during the holidays when food waste is especially severe, and there is increased transportation to take it all to the landfill. 

Photo by Indi Palmer

Luckily, it turns out that there are uses for jack-o’-lanterns that are not only more sustainable than tossing them but also fun and nutritious for the whole family -- including your fur baby! You’ll have to do the work of emptying and carving the pumpkin anyway, so here are a few simple but creative ways to make the most of jack-o’-lanterns before and after they provide some spooky amusement. 

  • Toast the seeds: Separate the seeds from the flesh and set them in a bowl of water to rinse. Air dry completely and toss in oil before throwing into the oven. Tip: Caramelize or add spices you enjoy for customized seeds!
  • Puree the filling: The fleshy part of the scooped out filling can be pureed for a variety of yummy goodies. The most common and popular option is to save it for pumpkin pies, but it can also be fed to pups. Whether you decide to bake them into DIY pumpkin treats for your pup or put some puree into their food, pumpkin is a holistic ingredient known for its ability to aid in healthy digestive functioning. 
  • Concoct a pumpkin spice latte: With a little pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice, give your usual latte a fall-inspired spin!
  • Make pumpkin chips: Any parts of the skin that have been peeled away can be baked into tasty, crunchy pumpkin chips. As with the seeds, spices can be added to add some extra flavor to these crispy delights. 
  • Compost the rest: Just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean you have to dump the pumpkin in the trash. Reconsider where you dispose of the jack-o’-lantern and compost if possible. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of outdoor space, commercial composting is also a possibility. Or in more rural areas, some local farms might take food waste for their own composting. 
  • Donate “leftovers”: If you happen to live near a local farm, you might consider donating used pumpkins to pigs or other farm animals that might make use of the nutritious, orange squash. 

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