By Ginny Dorn, B.A. in Family and Consumer Sciences
Pumpkins are synonymous with Halloween. You can find these cheerful reminders of the season in just about every home during October. Unfortunately, they no longer serve a purpose once Halloween has come and gone - leading many people to throw them in the trash. As a result, Americans send over 1 billion pounds of pumpkin waste to landfills during this short period of time.
The problem? Pumpkin, as well as the 35.3 million tons of food waste we deliver to landfills each year, creates methane gas as it decomposes in the landfill. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide.
Luckily, there are fun, simple ways to use your pumpkins after the holiday so that you don’t contribute to that food waste. Here are our favorite easy pumpkin ideas for you to check out this Halloween season!
What to Do With Pumpkins After Halloween to Avoid Food Waste
1. Get Crafty in the Kitchen
Pumpkins can stay fresh for up to 12 weeks. So, if you haven’t painted or carved your pumpkin, turn it into a tasty dish! Although the variety of pumpkin we use for Halloween isn’t the tastiest on its own, it’s delicious when roasted and added to other dishes.
Simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds (save those for later!), brush with the oil of your choice, sprinkle with salt, and roast in an oven at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Test that it’s ready by piercing it with a fork - it should be tender. Once cool, you can scoop the flesh of the pumpkin out and blend it until smooth.
Pumpkin works in both sweet and savory dishes, including:
Pumpkin is also highly nutritious. It contains heart-healthy potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Vitamin C may also provide a healthy boost to your immune system! So, not only does eating your pumpkin help you avoid food waste, but it’s also a tasty way to get some impressive health benefits.
2. Don’t Forget the Pumpkin Seeds for Recipes
Just like the pumpkin itself, pumpkin seeds are great for your health. They contain protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. They may help reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, and lower the risk of heart disease.
There are a lot of pumpkin seed recipe options out there. You can roast them with savory or sweet spices. You can also sprinkle them on salads, in your oatmeal, or blend them in smoothies. At ALOHA, we have our own unique pumpkin seed recipe - we use the seeds as a key ingredient in our Pumpkin Spice Protein Bars.
3. Check Out Composting Collection Centers
Composting the pumpkin allows you to return the nutrients and water content back to the soil. Even if you don’t compost your food waste at home, there are tons of composting collection centers around the US. Many run programs in their local cities to collect pumpkins after Halloween for this very purpose! Just do a quick Google search to find a composting facility near you.
4. Preserve Your Pumpkins
You might be surprised to find out that you can preserve your pumpkin and use it in your fall decor for months after Halloween. We recommend that you preserve it in vinegar, as this is a natural way to prevent mold and pests. Although you can use bleach to preserve the pumpkin, this makes it inedible once you’re done with it. By using vinegar, you can put it out for wildlife to enjoy later on.
To preserve your pumpkin, you’ll need a bucket, sink, or tub. Fill it with one part white vinegar to 10 parts water. Then, submerge your pumpkin. If it’s carved, you may need to weigh it down with something heavy. Soak the pumpkin for about 30 minutes, then dry it in the sunlight.
5. Skip Food Waste and Donate, Donate, Donate
If you aren’t particularly interested in eating your pumpkins, odds are, someone else is. Most food banks accept uncarved pumpkins, so check out your local food bank to see if you can donate there. They’ll turn it into a delicious dish for someone in need.
Animals also love pumpkins. Zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and even farms will often accept pumpkins. Just be sure that the pumpkin still appears fresh - moldy or contaminated pumpkins can be dangerous if consumed. You might even consider chopping up the pumpkin and leaving it in a nearby forest, as wild animals will also snack on it.
Now that you know what to do with pumpkins after Halloween, you can do your part and help eliminate food waste! Whether you’re eating the pumpkin, giving it to someone else in need, or composting, you’ll be helping the planet.
In ALOHA bars, we make use of pumpkins by using pumpkin seeds in our Pumpkin Spice Bars. We also help avoid food waste and insecurity by donating our products to families in need, serving eight different communities. Plus, our protein drinks are Fair Trade Certified, and all products certified B Corp. We truly believe in building a business that serves our employees, communities, and the environment. You can read more about our impact here.
Ginny Dorn is a wellness and sustainability writer with a passion for writing about eco-conscious brands and products, plastic pollution, green building, and biodiversity. She graduated from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in Family and Consumer Sciences. When she's not writing, you can usually find her exploring parks with her dog or watching movies with her cats.