Ask Eartha: What Should I Do With My Halloween Pumpkins?

More than 149 million Americans are expected to carve pumpkins this Halloween, and that’s a lot of potential food waste.
High Country Conservation / Courtesy Photo

Dear Eartha,

I left my Halloween pumpkin outside overnight and now it’s a rotten mess, and not in a charmingly creepy way. I already compost my food scraps, but can I also compost my pumpkin?

It’s officially spooky season, and while gross and spooky things are a staple of the celebration. Although I don’t blame you for wanting to get rid of your rotten pumpkin. Here’s some exciting news: your gooey gourd isn’t destined to become a zombie in the landfill. Instead, free pumpkin composting will be offered from October 29 to November 13 at Frisco, Silverthorne and Breckenridge recycling centers. There will be clearly marked bins where you can throw away your old smelly pumpkins.



Proper Pumpkin Protocol

Halloween may have a little extra, but getting rid of your decorative gourd is very simple. Remember that your pumpkins are turned into compost, so you will need to remove candles, artificial lighting, paint, glitter and any other decorations before placing them in the bins. Then your pumpkin will be composted directly in Summit County, and the finished compost will be used to feed the local soil. Pretty spooky.

Oh, honey, why bother?

More than 149 million Americans are expected to carve pumpkins this Halloween, and that’s a lot of potential food waste. What is the problem ? Well, food and other organic materials – including pumpkins – left to rot in landfills release harmful greenhouse gas pollution. In fact, if all of those 149 million pumpkins were tossed into landfills, the resulting greenhouse gas emissions would total more than all of Summit County’s emissions in one year. Now that’s scary!



I wouldn’t ask you to give up your pumpkin spice latte habit, and I certainly wouldn’t ask you to stop carving Halloween pumpkins. Instead, put that pumpkin to work by putting it down for composting.

How about sculpting your masterpiece? Many locals have probably learned firsthand that your freshly carved pumpkin doesn’t last very long in the environment of the high Alps. Pro tip: Bring your pumpkins indoors at night and, if you can control your holiday cheer, don’t prune them too early. And the entrails? Get rid of those guts by using the High Country Conservation Center’s free food waste recycling program. Or be crafty and roast the seeds with oil and chili powder for a delicious treat while watching your favorite Halloween movie.

Lastingly scary

Total spending this Halloween is expected to reach $10.6 billion, up $500 million from last year. That’s a lot of moolah and a lot of trash! Keep in mind that Halloween sustainability doesn’t have to stop with pumpkins. Consider making your own fun and festive decorations with things you already have at home, like googly-eyed bats made from toilet paper rolls.. Best of all, the crafts are perfect for kids.

And the costumes? In 2021, Americans spent $10.14 billion on costumes alone. Liana Jeepers! So what happens to all those old costumes? The simplest answer is that they are thrown away. Ouch! With Halloween fast approaching, keep costumes out of the trash by prioritizing reduce, reuse, and recycle. You can do this by making your own costumes from materials you have at home. Or reuse a costume you already have because let’s be honest, no one will remember it. If you don’t want to be an outfit repeater, trade with your friends.

So there you go folks. With these tips, you don’t have to miss all the spooky fun. Don’t forget to compost your pumpkin, reuse your decorations and costumes, and have a wonderfully green Halloween.

Lauren Richmond
High Country Conservation Center / Courtesy Photo

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff of the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Send your questions to [email protected].

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