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Q. Hi Umbra,

Do you have any suggestions for an environmentally friendly Halloween treat, and something that parents won’t worry about?

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Kim W.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

A. Dearest Kim,

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hot mama earthOr there’s the ever-popular “hot mama Earth” costume.Grist TVWe’ve said lots about Halloween over the years, but there’s always more to say. Which is why I dug your letter out of the e-mail archives to suit my needs. Will my ghoulish charm convince you to overlook that haunting maneuver? This year, I’ve found a new list of non-food items for trick-or-treaters, and I’m ready for the 2009 Climate Change Costume Closet.

I have made alterna-candy suggestions before, and now I’ve discovered the Green Halloween non-food treat list, which includes basic but brilliant ideas such as acorns, Band-Aids, polished rocks, and whistles (and also strange things such as recycled glass tiles). We also have a handy how-to guide to greening the rest of the holiday, and of course costume suggestions by moi.

This year’s costume suggestions focus less on witty and sexy (yep, that CFL costume got us all some action) in order to reflect the seriousness of the climate situation and, perhaps more important, remind people that there is a climate situation. In all fairness, I do feel that the Health Care Debate offers richer costume possibilities than the Climate Debate. But Tea Party activists and a rabid Fox are good costumes that can lead to conversations about either hot political topic.

Here are my as usual brilliant ideas (some supplied by friends and family), sure to offer all of us a brief chance for informative conversation with a baffled co-Halloweener. You know, like a more-likely-to-occur elevator pitch.

High Albedo: A shiny, shiny costume, which could integrate silver lame, a silver umbrella, silver boots, a space blanket, or all white items along the same lines. When they ask what you are, you say something along the lines of, “I’m albedo, you know, highly reflective like the melting ice caps.” You may want to research and rehearse your response to make it less awful than that.

Kerry-Boxer: Just you and a friend dressed up like John Kerry and Barbara Boxer — or you dressed up like John Kerry wearing boxing gloves — armed with talking points about why your Senate Climate bill is important. This costume will work best if — well, if you can look like the two of them, first of all, but also if you are able to inhabit your role and take on a politician’s earnest enthusiasm. Then, you’ll be able to trap your questioner with a barrage of helpful information about the vital importance of an effective climate bill. Say their name repeatedly and touch them on the upper arm several times in a comradely way.

Waxman-Markey: Kerry-Boxer for the advanced costumer. Does anyone know what these two guys look like?

Homeless Polar Bear: Sad, but true.

Fundraising Maldivian: Dressed in summery clothing, with a sign and a jar, asking for donations toward resettlement since your home is about to be underwater. If Halloween weather does not prohibit being damp, be damp.

Wind Turbine: Body is pole, turbine is atop head. ‘Nuf said.

The Atmosphere: Probably best as a group costume in which each member chooses an atmospheric component, with most going as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, etc. Do not be scientifically correct in proportioning the number of carbon equivalent costumes. When individual members of the atmosphere are questioned, say something like, “I’m methane, part of the atmosphere [point to other group members]. I’m small but influential, and I can really mess those guys up.” If the questioner looks askance or seems doubtful, start muttering about extreme weather events coming to the party soon.

Cap and Trade: I can’t quite figure this one out, other than a vague and unsatisfying idea involving swapping piles of hats. The person who does pull it off in a clever way deserves some kind of award. Keep us posted.

Happy Halloween, everyone!