The Carving is Done… but What Do You Do with the Pumpkin Waste?

So, the carving is done and you find yourself left with a bunch of sad looking pumpkins just begging you not to trash them?  You’re not the only one.  Turns out that we go through approximately 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins every year in the U.S., the majority of these being sold right around now when the Halloween craze starts to hit.  But, what happens to all those pounds of pumpkins?  Unfortunately, the majority of them go straight from ghoulish window décor to undetermined “trash” that will fill the nearest landfill where they will eventually contribute to methane levels that are already too high .  If that doesn’t sound right for your family, here are some alternative ideas for giving that jack o’ lantern a second use and how to bid it a suitable and proper farewell.

Upcycle It to Food

Creating food with your pumpkin is probably the most obvious manner of stretching out that pumpkins life and use.  Scoop out the “guts” of the pumpkin and create any number of delicious, scrumptious fall treats like pumpkin butter, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie (of course!) and even pumpkin milk.  The seeds themselves are fantastic when roasted plain, or if you want to get really creative, try some sweet and tantalizing pumpkin seed brittle from Epicurious.

Feed the Birds

Yes, literally.  Zoologists have confirmed that feeding pumpkins to birds is safe.  There are also many zoos which accept pumpkin donations and then feed them to their animals as local, seasonal treats (green, sustainable, organic zoo food!).  If you’re in the St. Louis area, your zoo is a definite go.  Your zoo might even offer a chance to take your kids in and watch  (and since lions are on the top of the list for loving pumpkin, I imagine this could be quite a show).

Treat Your Skin

Pumpkin is full of rich vitamins, enzymes and even essential amino acids, all of which can benefit your skin.  They also boast alpha-hydroxy acids that are known to decrease the appearance of wrinkles.  So if you’re in the mood for a homemade face treatment, a basic pumpkin puree is a wonderful place to start.  Leave on for approximately 10 minutes and use as a gentle exfoliator when rinsing off.  For a softer, gentler version, add in some honey and a little bit of cream or milk.  For extra exfoliation, mix in cream and brown sugar.

Fill Your Home with Sweet Smells

If you’re craving Thanskgiving already just for the scrumptious smell of fresh pumpkin pie, then you might want to make your own pumpkin pie potpourri.  If your pumpkin is already hollowed and carved, you’re halfway there.  If not, scoop it out clean and cut some small holes for venting.   Rub cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice on the interior and insert cloves into the lid.  Place a small tea candle inside and just wait for the delicious scent of warm pumpkin pie to start wafting through your home.

Final Goodbye

For a pumpkin’s final resting place when all uses are exhausted, skip the garbage and break up your pumpkin to add to your own compost pile.  It will turn itself into a wonderfully rich part of your soil ready to fertilize and delight your tender spring plants in a few months.  If you don’t have your own compost bin, ask amongst your friends or check to see if your community has a recycling plan already in motion for pumpkins.  (If they don’t, maybe you can step up and start one?)  Remember to remove all candles, paint, was and decorations before turning them over.

Image Credit: iStockphoto.com

Freelancer Tara Alley is dedicated to all things green & sustainable and is currently working alongside an online heating company, helping them promote their efficient heaters for the fall season.

  1. Juan Miguel Ruiz

    These are definitely tips I can do with the family and even recommend this to friends. I love pumpkin smoothies and even pie. Do you know of any other tips to go green for the slew of upcoming holidays?

    Juan Miguel Ruiz (Going Green)

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