Fall Pumpkins - Turn a Wasteful Tradition Around

October 08, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Let’s get it over with -- the hard facts are:

  • Well over a billion pounds of pumpkins are trashed – unused – wasted – sent to the landfill after Halloween.
  • That adds to methane gas production - a greenhouse gas more dangerous than carbon dioxide (the stuff produced from burning fuels like coal, gasoline, and oil)
  • In other words, our love of decorative pumpkins is a climate-changer.
  • There are ways to live easier on the planet, and still have your pumpkins.


The choices we have for making better use of our seasonal, decorative pumpkins keeps getting better. We don’t have to trash the guts after carving or toss the remains of carved or whole pumpkins in the trash when the season is over. Well over a billion pounds of pumpkins are produced and sold in the US every year, but most are never eaten. They're thrown away when their cuteness fades. And that makes the global pumpkin trade – and us pumpkin consumers -- substantial producers of greenhouse gas emissions.


Here are some ways to reduce our carbon footprint when it comes to our love of pumpkins.



Buy locally

  • If you have to have pumpkins (ask yourself that), visit your local pumpkin patch, farm, garden center, or other merchant that you know sells locally grown pumpkins.


Use every part of the pumpkin

  • If you carve your pumpkins, save the “guts”, including the seeds and all the parts you carved out. If you don’t plan to use these parts in recipes, compost all of them.


  • If you have a yard or space that you know wildlife visit, put pumpkin remains out for wildlife to eat. Squirrels, foxes, deer, racoons and birds could use the extra food particularly during colder months when food is typically more scarce. Just make sure all pumpkin parts are cut up and small enough to eat.



  • If you don't have a yard to keep pumpkins in, or a compost pile consider donating them to a local hobby farm, community garden, animal shelter, zoo, or wildlife center. Many of these organizations gladly take pumpkins at the end of the season depending on their condition.


Check for other pumpkin recyclers in your area

  • Visit your county or state government’s trash and recycling website and search for pumpkin recovery or drop off. Many local governments now have pumpkin drop off days shortly after Halloween, including my local Washington DC government.


  • See if you live near a non-profit pumpkin collection site. One of the brightest lights in cutting down on wasteful pumpkin behavior are non-profits that accept pumpkins after the season. Organizations like SCARCE and Pumpkins for the People have drop-off sites where you can take your old pumpkins. They'll compost them to keep them out of landfills.


What am I doing with my pumpkins this year?

  • No painting
  • No carving
  • At the end of the season, we’ll cut up our whole pumpkins and put them on the compost pile. Some pieces will no doubt be eaten by our local wildlife but most will decompose and enrich our compost for next year’s garden.



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