If you’re looking for ways to reduce your waste and better steward the Earth, then decorating your home for fall and Halloween gives us a great opportunity to do that!
Here are some eco-friendly ideas for cute and classy decorations that are reusable or natural (and therefore will break down much faster than their plastic counterparts when thrown out or composted).
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#1. Carved Pumpkins
This one seems obvious, so I put it as number one for these eco-friendly Halloween decoration ideas. Show off your jack-o-lantern masterpieces to all passersby from your front porch! Just don’t forget to buy the tea light candles to brighten up your cut out design from the inside of the pumpkin.
First of all, by buying Pumpkins from your local pumpkin patch, you are supporting local farmers by partaking in their agritourism business.
Secondly, pumpkins are “au naturel”. They can be thrown out with your other food scraps in your compost pile or in your organics waste bin (if your municipality accepts “food scraps” in your organics cart). If you have a lot of deer around, you can also leave your finished pumpkins out for the deer to munch on.
These are possibly the most fun decoration to make on this list. Gather your family or friends together for a pumpkin carving party! You can use stencils or your own imagination to make spooky, cute, or artistic carved pumpkins. There is really no limit to the possibilities here. The picture above is our front porch carved pumpkin scene this year – I guess we went with spooky and cute.
Rather than throwing the pumpkin seeds in the organics bin or compost, roast them in the oven with olive oil and salt for a healthy seasonal snack.
#2. Painted Pumpkins
Painted pumpkins are another great way to spruce up your pumpkins. Paint on faces, designs, art masterpieces…again, there are so many creative options here! For precise painting, use these acrylic paint markers.
From the research I’ve done on the topic, there seems to be little bit of uncertainty whether or not painted pumpkins can be composted. The fear would be that some of the toxins in the paint would leach into the soil that the compost is added to. From what I’ve researched, I’ve found that some environmental experts say that the acrylic paints do decompose (which is great), but the dyes in the paint do not and may have some metals in their chemical makeup. The consensus is that the amount of paint is so miniscule and this is generally only done once a year so it is ok to compost your painted pumpkin. That said, compost them at your own risk and definitely don’t compost something with a huge amount of toxic paint on it. Alternatively, since acrylic paints are water-based, you can try removing the paint from the pumpkin with a wet paper towel and then throwing the paper towel in the trash and the pumpkin in the compost.
If you decide to throw your painted pumpkin into your organics bin, keep this in mind: whether painted pumpkins are compostable or can be thrown into your green bin is dependent on your city’s Waste Management rules. First, look to see if your municipality accepts food scraps in your organics recycling cart. My organics cart is a green bin that says right on the bin that it allows yard trimmings, leaves, food-soiled cardboard, shredded paper, and food scraps. Since pumpkins are “food scraps”, I will throw mine away in the green organics cart.
#3. Mini pumpkins & Gourds
Just like the other two pumpkin Halloween decoration ideas, using small mini pumpkins and gourds as fall decor means they can be composed when the season is over. There is some fun creativity with these options as well. You can get real creepy and weird with some straaange looking gourds (warts and all!) or add some other fall decoration elements for a cute mini pumpkin look.
#4. Fresh Flowers & Live Plants
Fresh flowers are pretty classic for any season and they really brighten up a room. I happened to have some marigold and zinnia plants growing in my garden this fall with bright orange and white flowers, so I made a mini bouquet to go with my fall decor. Growing your own flowers in the garden to keep fresh flowers in your home takes work and definitely some planning so here are some other options:
- Pick wildflowers
- Buy fresh cut flowers at the florist shop, farmer’s market, or grocery store
- Buy mums (pictured above) or other seasonal potted plants. Come Autumn, mums are a popular plant to find. Buy them potted in soil to display on your front porch. Apparently you can even buy live mum plants with Prime shipping through Amazon!
#5. Dried Flowers, Leaves & Twigs
Go foraging!* I had a blast foraging for dried branches and leaves that I thought would add a lovely natural and vintage fall touch to my home. I looked for orange colors and deep reds. Look below and around trees for leaves and branches that have naturally broken off.
*When foraging, go somewhere a little more wild than somewhere with fancy landscaping and remember not to take too much from one area. And don’t take out roots!
Have fun experimenting with the arrangement of your foraged fall decorations. You can place small branches in glass jars (I used an empty food container and a glass water pitcher above) or lay leaves and twigs on a table runner or centerpiece, on your coffee table, kitchen island, or counters. They would look especially fall-y in amber glass vases and bottles. Arrange them with candles, mini pumpkins, and dried ears of corn.
#6. Dried Wheat & Grasses
Dried wheat is perfect for fall decor because of its “harvest” vibe. When I went foraging for my dried leaves and twigs I ran into a small patch of wheat so I clipped some, tied the small bunch with some twine, and laid it on my table runner with some mini pumpkins (pictured above). Great Halloween and overall fall decor! For those of you that do not own your own wheat farm…(I seriously don’t know how I even ran across wheat, I was nowhere near any farms of any sort), you can purchase your own dried wheat. And dried pampas grass is also a beautiful decorative grass (more full and fluffy) that’s good home decor all year round.
#7. Paper cutouts
While growing up, my parents’ house had a large wall of windows that I loved decorating with homemade paper cutouts. I would just use colorful construction paper, regular white printer paper, or even brown paper bags to cut out seasonal designs. During Halloween, I cut out bat silhouettes from black construction paper (pictured above) as window decorations. This is a fun eco-friendly Halloween decoration that you can put on the front windows of your house or on the walls inside.
You can also cut natural brown construction paper or paper bags into squares, triangles, or flag shapes and paint or write letters in marker onto each one to create seasonal garland banners with words such as:
- “Happy fall”
- “Happy Halloween”
- “Hello fall”
- “Trick or Treat”
Then, string them all together and hang above your fireplace or entryway for some festive fall decor. I cut out a paper shopping bag I had to make the “harvest” banner and hung it above my dining table (pictured above). Burlap banners, like these cute “Happy fall” banner or pumpkins burlap banner, also work as eco-friendly fall decorations. Both burlap and paper are compostable, so after you’ve used them for many Halloween/fall seasons, you can throw them away (or in the compost pile) knowing they will biodegrade much quicker than other plastic decorations.
#8. Dried Corn
Dried corn is a popular harvest-themed decoration for fall. Look for it at your local grocery store or natural food store. If you can’t find dried corn near you, you can buy them online too. Here are some ideas for how to use ornamental Indian corn (the multi-colored, hard-shelled kind pictured above):
- as a centerpiece or place setting
- use several to create a garland or wreath
- bunch a few together and hang on cabinet knobs or on your fence
- hot glue them around a pillar candle or terracotta pot
- place on a windowsill with some straw, leaves, and pumpkins
#9. Corn Kernels
As a popcorn connoisseur, I always have popcorn kernels in stock in my pantry. Corn is a theme for fall, so why not use popcorn kernels for fall decor too?!
Corn kernel candles are easy to make. Find a clear glass cup or jar (like a mason jar or I used a cleaned out food container I had saved), fill it with popcorn kernels, and add a tea light candle. Spruce up the candle holder with some twine, ribbon, or tie some leaves to the outside. And voila!
When you’re done with the candle, the kernels will most likely still be good to be popped and enjoyed but they are also biodegradable and can be thrown in the compost or organics bin.
#10. Pinecones, Acorns, & Nuts
Adding natural elements to your home gives a fall touch and is very eco-friendly. Spread out pinecones and acorns among your mini pumpkins or candles around your home or put them in a bowl or glass jar with lights. If you collect your own pinecones or acorns, return them close to where you found them when you are done using them for your fall decor.
You can do the same things with walnuts and pecans. My college campus had a lot of pecan trees with people always collecting the nuts from below the trees. Go foraging for some and add that to your decor. If those trees don’t grow near you, you can also buy them online.
Both acorns and pinecones are the seeds of certain trees. By returning them back to their appropriate environment, they have to opportunity to grow into oak and pine trees. Additionally, they are part of the diets of local wildlife, especially birds and small mammals.
Acorns and pinecones can be purchased online – there are these larger pinecones and these small spruce cones, as well as these acorns with their caps glued on so they stay intact ;). You can certainly reuse these decorations each year, but when they seem to have reached the end of their life as decor, you can throw them in the organics bin or compost pile (even the store-bought scented ones).
#11. Cinnamon Sticks
Cinnamon is an easy fall decoration addition. Pick some up at your local grocery store or natural food store and “spice” up (get it?) your home. If you can’t find them near you, you can also buy them here. You can add them to a spread of all your fall accents, collect them together in a jar, or wrap them up with twine or ribbon. I even used them as stems for my crocheted pumpkin decorations (pictured above).
#12. Mandarin Orange Jack-o-Lanterns
Make jack-o-lantern mandarin oranges by simply drawing jack-o-lantern faces on their peels with sharpie markers. The ink does not soak into the orange and can even be washed off. Use these a decoration in your kitchen, add them to your fruit basket, use them for a Halloween party, or just have fun with friends as you decorate them with unique faces.
When you are all done using these as eco-friendly Halloween decorations, eat ’em! Or pass them out for Halloween. Or, at the very least, throw them in the organics bin if they go bad.
#13. Dried Orange Slices
Dried oranges not only look good, they smell good too! You can make your own by slicing an orange into 1 cm slices and placing them on the rack in the oven for 2-3 hours at 250 degrees (flipping them a few times). Or you can buy them online. If you want more dried fruit options there are variety packs with other dried fruit slices (oranges, pumpinos, red & green apples, and limes).
You can arrange them with other fall decor accents, place them in a clear vase or jar, or string them with ribbon or twine and hang them!
#14 Straw Scarecrows
There is an adorable house in my neighborhood that has 4 or 5 tiny straw scarecrows lining their front entryway and it looks so festive! Besides your front yard, you can also put scarecrows in straw bales on your front porch, in flower pots, or place them around your home. You can use these for many years, but do not feel bad once they reach the end of their life because they are yet another eco-friendly Halloween decoration on this list. Everything on them should be biodegradable (the straw, burlap, cotton fabric, wooden stick, and wooden buttons) but anything that is not biodegradable can be removed before you throw these in the organics bin. I found two sets of mini straw scarecrows available on Amazon that are made of predominantly biodegradable materials: this pack of 8, and this brightly-colored pack of 6.
#15. Yarn Spiderwebs
If you are more into spooky Halloween decorations, here is an eco-friendly alternative to those polyester and nylon stretchy spider web decorations that are not actually biodegradable. Make your own spider webs out of organic cotton yarn. You can easily do this by taping an “X” onto your wall with the yarn and create other “spokes” from that X. Then wrap new strands of yarn around those main lines or create knots at each intersection. A quick search on the internet will help you create one.
And when this decoration has outlived it life, you can throw it in the compost or organics bin.
#16. Upcycled Lanterns & Luminaries
A great vintage-looking addition to your dinner table or front porch would be an upcycled or diy lantern. You can simply place a tea light candle in a glass jar or mason jar or create your own tin can luminaries (pictured above). To do this, fill a tin can with water and freeze it (this will keep your hammer and nail from bending the can). Then use a nail and hammer to punch small holes in the can in any design you choose like a pumpkin, leaf, or jack-o-lantern (on mine, I drew a shape first on paper then taped it to the can as a guideline before I punched holes in it). Then place a tea light candle in it and voila!
#17. Straw (“hay”)
Straw bales are the perfect fall decor addition to your front porch. Good from Halloween to the end of the fall season, you can prop a plethora of fall decorations on bales of hay: painted or plain pumpkins, gourds, scarecrows, or corn. Note: I would discourage putting carved pumpkins that will have a tea light candle in them on the dried out straw because this is a fire hazard.
Another side note: apparently there’s a difference between straw and hay… Unless you’re buying feed for farm animals, you’re probably buying straw.
You can also use straw bales as seating for a backyard seasonal party!
Buy straw bales at your local feed store, craft store, or sometimes home improvement and grocery stores will have them. If you can’t find them locally, you can also order them here.
Another good option for home fall decoration is a small amount of straw. Rather than a whole bale, a small amount of straw could be tasteful as bedding for a collection of fall decor such as on a windowsill or in a basket as a centerpiece.
If you want a touch of flannel in your fall decor, then I suggest heading over to your local thrift store. Look for a large-sized flannel shirt or fabric with plaid pattern. You can then turn these into square pieces to go under your centerpieces on your coffee table, placemats for your table, or pillowcases for your couch. If sewing is not your forte, then try cutting the flannel into shapes like a pumpkin or the word “FALL” and use machine-washable fabric adhesives to attach them to a pillow case or even hand towels in your kitchen.
Bonus Tip: Candy!
If you are going to pass out candy for Halloween then choose candy brands that are made in the US (assuming you live in the US). Obviously, candy is wrapped in plastic and therefore not environmentally-friendly, but these are all made in the US and therefore have traveled a lot less (AKA used much less fuel and caused less emissions) than those made overseas: