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How to Reduce Waste and Use the Whole Pumpkin This Halloween

Posted October 12, 2023

person carving jack o lantern outside

Planning on crafting the perfect jack-o’-lantern this Halloween? Transform your annual pumpkin-carving tradition into a win-win situation for you, your compost heap, and the planet. Each year, countless pumpkins end up in landfills, contributing to methane emissions and environmental degradation.

Instead, why not make the most of every part of your pumpkin? From roasting the seeds to pureeing the flesh for soups or pies, there’s a purpose for every piece. Once your lantern’s glowing grin has faded, add it to your compost pile to keep the circle of life going.

Here are some creative and eco-friendly ways to utilize every bit of your pumpkin—seeds, pulp, and all—while reducing landfill waste and your environmental footprint.

Roast the Pumpkin Seedspumpkin seeds roasting on pan in oven

Carving pumpkins is messy, and while it’s easy to toss the guts and seeds in a trash bag as you work, it’s worth the time to separate the pumpkin seeds from the stringy flesh to use later. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a delicious and healthy snack on their own, or you can add them to salads, muffins, trail mix, and more.

  1. Separate the seeds from the stringy pumpkin flesh.
  2. Rinse the seeds.
  3. Toss the seeds with olive oil and the seasoning of your choice. You can make them salty, spicy, or sweet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, giving the seeds a toss about halfway through.

Make Pumpkin Purée

Pumpkins are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, and fiber, making them a relatively inexpensive superfood. Skip the canned stuff, and roast the flesh from the cut-out portions of your jack-o’-lantern to make a homemade pumpkin purée. You can use your purée for things like pie, cookies, bread, and soup.

Bake a Loaf of Pumpkin Guts Bread

Most people probably discard the stringy pumpkin guts, not realizing that this part is perfectly edible and great for baking. This is a simple way to use parts of the pumpkin that are typically less desirable. Once you remove the seeds, turn those guts into a loaf of delicious pumpkin bread.

Compost Your Jack-o’-Lanterns

Once your jack-o’-lantern has been sitting out, there’s not much you can do with it, but that doesn’t make it trash. Instead of throwing away your expired jack-o’-lanterns, compost them instead! Be sure to smash your pumpkin up into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Remove any non-organic decorations, like metal and plastic, before putting your carved pumpkin into your compost bin. Incorporating pumpkins into your compost will help produce a nutrient-dense soil amendment for your garden next spring.

For more tricks on how to treat your compost, check out our Guide to Fall Composting.