Eco-friendly mom adds new twist to Halloween tradition

October 22, 2008

By Contributor

By Makenzie Greenblatt

Halloween: healthy and environmentally friendly. Sound impossible? One Issaquah mom has made it her mission to create new traditions for children, parents and the Earth.

While trick-or-treating with her daughters in 2006, Corey Colwell-Lipson thought about how great it would be if you could tell which houses were giving out healthy treats. Already living a mostly organic and eco-friendly lifestyle, she understood that it could be time-consuming and expensive to find alternatives to traditional Halloween fare. So, she decided to mention her thoughts to the folks at Whole Foods Market in Bellevue.

“I shared it hoping that they would do something with it,” she said.

Whole Foods told her they loved her vision, and would back her all the way.

With her youngest just entering pre-school, Colwell-Lipson was ready to start her marital and family therapist practice. Founding a grassroots organization was not on her mind.

“I had in my lap this opportunity that could potentially be quite meaningful and contribute to some lasting change,” she said.

Practically overnight she came up with Green Halloween, a “nonprofit, grassroots community initiative to create healthier and more Earth-friendly holidays.”

The idea was not hard to sell. Within weeks, hospitals, businesses, parents and publications wanted to know how they could be involved.

“I was very naïve about what it would take,” she admitted. “For the first six months, I put in practically seven days a week, 24 hours a day to get Green Halloween off the ground. No pay, no nothing.”

One year later, the payoff was visible. The Issaquah Highlands was the first official Green Halloween area. People there turned their annual Harvest Festival into the Issaquah Highlands Green Halloween Harvest Festival.

“I would guess that maybe 50 percent of the homes were handing out alternatives to conventional candy,” Colwell-Lipson said.

This year, it’s just the Green Halloween Festival, and it is open to the public.

Within two years, Green Halloween has spread across the country. There are six official cities, and, by Colwell-Lipson’s estimate, thousands of unofficial participants.

“In retrospect, it’s hard to believe this all came to fruition so quickly,” she said. “It’s just a movement of what’s happening in our country.

“It really was the perfect storm. Some of it had nothing to do with me, except how it was timed with me putting this idea out there.”

Passion still fresh in her voice, Colwell-Lipson said she is positive about the future of Green Halloween. Though she always wants to be involved, she said she hopes there comes a point where it’s just part of the traditions.

Success seems to follow all of Colwell-Lipson’s recent ideas. She and her mother, Lynn Colwell, just self-published a book.

“Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family” is designed to do just what it says. They took the same concepts from Green Halloween and applied them to other major holidays and celebrations. It has only been out since Oct. 1, but they have already been asked to become contributors for magazines.

Colwell-Lipson said she is not looking for fame or recognition.

“We’re not telling everyone to hop on our boat,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘You build your boat, and let’s all go in the same direction for taking care of our kids and our planet.’

“We’re just trying to get people to think outside the conventional candy-box.”

Makenzie Greenblatt is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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