Libraries Promote Environmental Awareness Through National Costume Swap Day

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When you think Halloween, you see orange.

But this year, thanks to libraries, more people are starting to see green.

That is because dozens of libraries, in promoting environmental awareness, participated in National Costume Swap Day on Oct. 8. The idea is that instead of buying new costumes, kids can simply swap their Halloween get-ups.

National Costume Swap Day was started in 2010 by the national non-profit initiative Green Halloween® to reduce the annual amount of landfill waste and to help families save money by not having to spend on new costumes.

Statistics show that swapping the costumes of only half of the children who celebrate Halloween would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equivalent to the weight of 2500 midsize cars.

This year, more than 100 swaps were registered, among them:

  •  Cedar Rapids Library, Cedar Rapids Iowa
  •  Endicott Branch Library Dedham Massachusetts
  •  Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth New Hampshire
  •  Evesham, Branch Library, Marlton New Jersey
  •  Burlington County Library System, Westhampton New Jersey
  •  Elizabethtown Public Library, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
  •  Aitkin Memorial District Library, Crowell Michigan
  •  Spout Springs Library, Flowery Branch, GA

The Cedar Rapids Public Library asked patrons to drop off their gently used costumes (up to children size 14) at the library. In exchange, donors were given a swap ticket to be brought back for the event. Proceeds from the sales benefited the library. Remaining costumes were donated to Costumes for Kids, a local organization that provides costumes to less fortunate kids.

The library partnered with the family friendly website and newsletter Macaroni Kid Cedar Rapids for the event. Macaroni Kid is a free weekly e-newsletter and website that highlights all of the great things for kids and their families to do in our community. It has reached more than 12,000 page views monthly and nearly 1,000 subscribers, who look for weekly kid and family events and activities in the area.

At the Endicott Library, the event was held by The Dedham Junior Woman’s Club. It advised participants to bring a gently used children’s Halloween costume and swap it for a “new to you” costume. Any costumes not swapped were donated to charity.

The Portsmouth Public Library partnered with Goodwill Industries, with the remaining clothing and accessories will be donated to Goodwill.

In addition to this national partnership, two Seacoast area shops signed on to provide early donations for the swap: Children’s Orchard in Newington and Periwinkles in Rye. “We are so grateful and excited to have these shops provide early donations for the swap,” said Jennifer Moore, library assistant and co-organizer of the swap. “We hope this event will continue to grow with each year, providing more opportunity for members of our community to reconnect and share resources.”

Most libraries are doing the swaps in collaboration with such community organizations as Goodwill or a woman’s club.

“Next year we look forward to launching a similar collaboration (that we have with the zoos) with the American Library Association (ALA),” said Corey Colwell-Lipson, founder of Green Halloween. “More parents than ever are reluctant to allow their children to go door to door to trick or treat. Libraries are like the town square in many communities today. We’re tremendously excited and feel extremely privileged to have the opportunity to reach thousands and thousands of communities through library events for National Costume Swap Day and Green Halloween.”

Halloween is only one opportunity for Corey and her partner and mom, Lynn, to work with the ALA. During the rest of the year, they offer tips and inspiration for greening every holiday and celebration via Celebrate Green! (also the name of their book), so there are many potential avenues where they can help support library efforts.

“We can see tremendous potential to work together year around to help libraries continue to move in a positive direction around sustainability as well as support their efforts to engage and lead the community to celebrating in more planet- and people-friendly ways,” said Lynn.

Among the libraries doing the costume swap is the Marshall (Wis.) Community Library, which serves a population of 3,700 and, according to librarian Diana Skalitzky, is located in a town that has one stoplight.

Ironically, Skalitzky had thought of the concept before finding out it was a national event.

“I just had the idea a couple months ago, because times are tough, and I see how people are struggling in our community. And I got to thinking about all the Halloween costumes over the years that I have made for my kids.

"Some were pretty nice. And now my kids are grown, and there is no place to go with them. So I thought we should have a costume swap. And I mentioned it to my library assistant."

The idea was that maybe the library would hold it next year, she said. "I was thinking about maybe this summer buying costumes at garage sales and sort of stashing them until next fall. But she persuaded me to do it now, because we’re having a Halloween craft night for families on Oct. 11. So we decided to combine the two things."

It was at that time that her assistant found out about the national costume swap day on Google.

Skalitzky said the library will give "boo bucks" to those bringing in a costume. The boo bucks can be used to shop for a different costume.

"For the parents who still want to give their kids the fun experience of Halloween, it’s just going to save them some money. But it’s also getting them together in a room at the same time knowing that they are not in these dire straits alone. And learning to share like we did in the bad old days, which I think is a good thing."

She said her community is experiencing tough economic times. "At least for the whole last two years, I have been astounded by the number of men that have come into the public library. And initially what brought them in was filing for unemployment. In our state, it’s best if you do that online. A lot of those fellows had never used a computer."

More information about National Costume Swap Day, as well as lots of other great tips for saving money and greening your Halloween celebration, are available at


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