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10+ Ways to Keep Halloween Pumpkins Out of the Landfills

halloween pumpkins unsustainable
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Danielle Alvarado


Let me get straight to the point here: Every single year in the United States alone, over 1 BILLION pounds of pumpkins are tossed away in the trash. Unused. Discarded without ever serving their true purpose in life: to be eaten.

This 1 billion pounds of pumpkin waste is part of an ever-increasing problem in the United States. We are already at more than 30 million tons of annual food waste each year and the holiday seasons seem to be the scary icing on the cake of waste.

All of this wasted food left to rot in landfills produces methane gas which is far more potent than carbon dioxide. Food is meant to break down into the earth, feed the earth, and aid in the creation of new plant life. By tossing into landfills, we are denying nature its most basic needs. Let’s stop this, shall we?

Compost the Halloween Pumpkins

Yep, it can be this easy. If your pumpkin is all beaten up, kinda gross, and just ready to go, you can compost it. If you already have a compost, then you are most likely already doing this. For those who do not have or do not know how to compost, you can have a compost company come pick it up! Check out your local area and find one near you.

Many cities/towns have a Halloween pumpkin pick-up program to avoid the landfill issue. In Illinois, the non-profit recycling and compost company Scarce has been hosting a day after Halloween pumpkin pick-up. It has drop-off points all over Illinois and it is doing some amazing work!

Ways to Use Halloween Pumpkins
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Awesome article by Scarce: Three Ways to get Kid Involved in the Pumpkin Smash!

Smash the Halloween Pumpkins!

Ever heard of a pumpkin smash? If you haven’t, it’s never too late to join in on the fun.

Pumpkin smashes are great fun and a great way to get the pumpkins back to where they belong: Into the Earth. This can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. Smash as you feel appropriate!

Some cities like to fling pumpkins with large slingshots (these are so much fun to watch). Others like to use huge sledgehammers. It’s all up to you. The point is to get everything to BRING their used/unused pumpkins to one area and smash them down and add to a compost pile/truck to avoid the landfill. Hundreds of tons of pumpkins have been successfully composted this way! How fun!

The Perfect Animal Feed

So many animals love to munch on a yummy pumpkin. Farms all over the world love to have used pumpkins dropped off to feed their animals. Zoos are also always looking for used pumpkins – so be sure to give any local farms/zoos a call and ask if they would like yours! If you live amongst nature, you can leave your pumpkins outside (Far enough from your home to avoid fear) for the local deer to feast on your pumpkins – they love it!

Roast some pumpkin seeds

So simple and delicious. Separate the seeds from the guts and lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast at 300F/150C for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. For an extra flavor boost, add some vegan butter!

Create a Pumpkin Planter

There’s a good chance that your Halloween pumpkins are all carved up and scary-looking. What is one supposed to do with this? It’s destroyed, yes? Think again!

Take your scary jack-o-lantern and plant something inside. Growing plants inside a hollowed-out pumpkin is genius and it works remarkably well. You can use it as a gorgeous indoor planter until the pumpkin begins to break down. Once it begins to break down, simply dig a hole outside and plant it into the ground! The pumpkin will break down into the earth, acting as a natural fertilizer,  and your plant will live a beautiful, well-nourished, life.

Check out this awesome article on pumpkin planters

Make Some Delicious Pumpkin Puree

If you are a big fan of canned pumpkin puree, then you are going to fall head over heels in love with homemade pumpkin puree. It tastes SO much better. To be honest, I ONLY use homemade pumpkin puree. Pumpkins are so easy to come by over here and baking them is a breeze. I like to chop up, bake at 400F/200C until soft and then peel the skin from the flesh. I mix the flesh by hand or in a food processor and store it in my refrigerator until I need it to bake some pie, use it in smoothies, create a soup, or even pancakes!

Remember that you can freeze your homemade puree as well. It will last for months if properly sealed. You can never have too much puree in my opinion! Skip the cans and make your own.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

People do not often think of smoothies when they are carving a pumpkin, but our family sure does. Pumpkin smoothies are one of our all-time favorites – it’s delicious. Once you have baked and created your homemade pumpkin puree, add it to your next breakfast smoothie. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a splash of vanilla extract to create a pumpkin pie-tasting treat!

Ways to Use Halloween Pumpkins
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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Blend and Enjoy!

  • 2 Frozen Bananas
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1-2 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon or pumpkin spice, to top
  • Fun option: Almond or Pecan Butter (1 tbsp)

Homemade Halloween Pumpkin Butter

Create our very own pumpkin butter (think more almond butter than dairy butter) and have a gorgeous treat for breakfast, snacks, or dessert! This butter goes great on toast, to pair with roasted sweet potatoes, or even with some pancakes. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Butter

  • 2 cups homemade pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 3/4 cup water

Add all ingredients to a stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer on very low. Stir often until the mixture has turned dark in color and is somewhat caramelized. Be sure to continue stirring to avoid burning.

Once thick – remove from heat and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This will last 10 days in the refrigerator.

Homemade Gut Vegetable Broth

My children love the “guts” of the pumpkin more than anything else. In fact, I think I do too! It was always so fun to scrape out all the seeds and gut strings from the inside of the pumpkin with loud screeches of “EWWW” and “GROSS” echoing throughout our Chicago house. Oh, the memories.

Here’s what you do: Separate the guts from the seeds. Have our kids do it – they’ll love it. Then, toss the guts into a stockpot with any and all veggie scraps that you have from the week. If you don’t have enough quite yet, add the guts to a freezer-safe bag and just continue to stock up on scraps until the bag is full. Once full – make your stock.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

  • Pumpkin String Guts
  • Any and all veggie scraps from celery, mushrooms, carrots, etc.
  • Water

Add all of your scraps and guts to a large stock pot and fill 2 inches over with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 30 minutes to 2 hours. I like to go longer or use my instant pot and do it that way. The water should change dark in color. Strain the veggies out you have yourself some homemade stock.

Pumpkin Candy

For this, you will just need the skin and flesh. Chop up the hollowed-out pumpkin into chunks and add to a saucepan and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the pumpkin flesh softens, stir in 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 tsp pumpkin spice. Continue to boil for a few more minutes until a syrup is formed.

Keep covered and sit overnight. We are allowing the pumpkin to soak in all of that sugar syrup to make candy. The next day, place the pumpkin pieces on a wire rack to dry.

Donate those Halloween Pumpkins

Pumpkins are food and there are so many people in the world and in your local area in need of this food. Donate your unused pumpkins to shelters or donation programs to help feed your community.

CompostCab, located in Washington D.C., was able to donate over 3,000 pounds of pumpkin to those in need. Amazing.

Whatever you do, just keep the pumpkins out of the trash bags and landfills and find new ways to use Halloween Pumpkins!

Get creative, do your thing, but stop the trash cycle. Pumpkins don’t belong locked up in plastic bags. Period.

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