Jack-O’-Lanterns and Fall Pumpkins: Please Compost

Halloween was a week ago, is your Jack-O’-Lantern still around? Do you still have fall pumpkins around your home? Please read this before you dispose of them!

pumpkins, Photo by Katie Burkhart on Unsplash
Photo by Katie Burkhart on Unsplash

Don’t you just love fall and pumpkins? The colors, the smells, the flavors?

Fall includes fun holidays, such as Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkins, of course, are one of the main natural items we associate with Fall. We use pumpkins to decorate and sometimes eat (although most people, myself included, usually buy canned pumpkin for cooking).  Sometimes people even use squash or gourds for decorations. If you do, I think it’s awesome if you’re using nature’s creations instead of plastic decorations! But what do you do with those things after their prime?

Compost them, that is the simplest answer.

Jack O'Lanterns, Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash
Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Please don’t put them in a landfill!

A couple of years ago, several articles, including this one, cited that the U.S. Department of Energy indicated that pumpkins thrown in landfills, approximately 1.3 billion pounds of them, will decompose (not biodegrade) and turn into methane. The Department of Energy someday hopes to convert greenhouse gas emissions from landfills into energy, but until that infrastructure exists, avoid the landfills. Another article indicated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the number to be more than 1.9 billion pounds! Methane is the harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, or climate change, if you prefer. (I will go into global warming, climate change, and methane in a future post).

If you compost already, just toss your pumpkin in! Feel free to chop it into smaller chunks first, if you’d like. But it will do fine whole. If you’re not composting, I have some other options for the pumpkins. And I’ll show you how to compost in a future post. It’s not as hard as it sounds, in fact, it’s surprisingly easy!

Other options

If you cannot compost your carved pumpkins or squash decorations that have started to rot, one option is that you can feed these items to livestock. Does a family member or friend own a farm? If not, maybe try offering them to a farm nearby for their animals. Don’t worry about seeming weird – you’re not weird, you’re trying to do the right thing! And pigs and other animals will enjoy your old produce! (FYI, I do compost but I gave our Jack-O’-Lanterns to my mother for her pigs).

My family's Jack-O'-Lanterns from this past Halloween. Photo by me.
My family’s Jack-O’-Lanterns from this past Halloween. Photo by me.

Another option is to let your pumpkin rot – preferably in the woods somewhere, where animals and insects and birds can eat off of it until it becomes part of the soil again. I’m not suggesting trespassing into the National Forests to do this! But I bet you live near at least a small forest or wooded area and no one would notice or care if you just dropped off your pumpkin or left it in the woods out of sight. It’s certainly better than putting in a landfill, for sure!

What about food waste?

Last, there are lots of people who are concerned about food waste with pumpkins – and that is a valid point. I advocate for using natural items over plastic items for decoration in nearly every situation. Perhaps we should use pumpkins for decoration, but not carve them, and then make a pumpkin recipe from them! NPR has an excellent article on the pros and cons of Halloween pumpkins and carving, as well as pumpkin recipes, and I highly recommend reading it.

Perhaps we should all grow our own pumpkins! Then there would be less national demand and agricultural overproduction of pumpkins, which could lead to less waste! This might be a stretch of my imagination, but I always say that we need to think outside of the box. I think I’ll plant pumpkins in my garden next year and try to harvest my very own Halloween pumpkins! I can be the change!

What about you, what changes do you think you can make? Can you grow your own pumpkin? Can you start composting at home? I’d love to know your ideas and what you can do!

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