The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 4, 2012

Cardboard Costume Challenge for a Plastic-Free Halloween

Halloween Plastic can be scary!  But blogger Amber Dohrenwend has one solution to Halloween plastic.  She’s the author of The Cardboard Collective, a blog about using recycled cardboard (the kind you would fish out of the cardboard only recycling bin or dumpster) to create toys, crafts, and furniture. She lives in a small apartment in Tokyo, Japan with her husband and two children, where she says, they “strive to maintain a simple, cardboard affirming lifestyle.”  In an effort to reduce plastic consumption this Halloween and encourage fun and creativity, Amber has organized the Cardboard Costume Challenge.  I asked her to explain the challenge in her own words and also tell us a bit about herself and her own efforts at de-plasticking in Japan.  So, here’s Amber:


I’m so excited to be joining you here on My Plastic Free Life! I’m a huge fan of all the work Beth’s done. This is where I first read about so many useful tips (like baking soda deodorant and travel cutlery) for reducing plastic consumption in my day to day life. Beth has been a true inspiration to me and one of the reasons I decided to start blogging.

Now that Halloween is approaching I want to talk about moving beyond the day to day and think about creative ways to celebrate a holiday with less plastic.

Cardboard is a wonderful material to adapt to holiday celebrations year round because it’s abundant, economical (usually free), recycle-able, and incredibly versatile. Cardboard is great for Halloween costumes too! You might not have thought about making anything other than a robot costume out of cardboard, but actually the possibilities are endless. If you need costume inspiration, tips for working with cardboard, or want a place to parade your costume around on the Internet, you can find it all at the Cardboard Costume Challenge.

For the Cardboard Costume Challenge, you can utilize some of the resources I’ve posted, like a Pinterest board with tutorials on making things like cardboard wigs, masks, and other odds and ends.

SakuraCon - Gundam
SakuraCon – Gundam by heath_bar, on Flickr


032511_CardboardParty2_NW_0038 by Nick Welles, on Flickr
032511_CardboardParty2_NW_0038 by Nick Welles, on Flickr


On my blog I’ll be posting tutorials every week filled with new ideas for working with cardboard as well as give you a glimpse at our own costumes in progress.


Some really amazing bloggers and cardboard artists will be judging 1 of 5 categories that you can compete in. The categories are:

Kids (12 and under)
DIY (100% kid made 12 and under)
Hybrid (50-75% plastic)
Bicycle Costume.

Starting October 1st, you can upload your pictures to the Flickr pool. Include in the comments section which category you would like to participate in.  If you don’t use Flickr shoot me an email with permission to upload your photos at thecardboardcollectiveblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

I hope you’ll consider making a cardboard costume this year, but if you’ve already made a plan for some other incredible plastic-free costume, I hope you’ll at least check out all the creations we’re expecting from around the web so you can start planning your cardboard costume for 2014.


To put all this cardboard creating in context, Beth asked me to also share a few words about how I’ve tried to reduce plastic in my life.  I have to say that in many ways, it’s been really difficult to reduce our plastic consumption while living in Japan.

In Japan, everything comes wrapped in plastic. Including say, the single, perfectly shaped, 5 inch long, 2 inch wide zucchinis in their clear plastic wrappers.

I wish there was even one bulk foods store that we could shop at in Tokyo! Although the Farmer’s Markets can bring some relief, most of these products are still packaged in plastic because it’s become such an ingrained part of the national psyche here. Plastic wrapped products are the accepted standard.

While we have found ways to bring our plastic waste to very low levels in terms of our personal health and household uses, the majority of our food is still packaged in plastic.  It was then that I felt I had to take a more activist standpoint if I wanted to do more. My husband and I decided to volunteer with Dr. Hideshige Takada‘s International Pellet Watch, and we are also hoping to work with him this year on ways to increase awareness about the dangers of single-use plastics, as well as work on some action campaigns that can help people in Japan to reduce their plastic use.

So, this is where I’m at now in my plastics journey. Trying to take the next step. For me blogging at The Cardboard Collective has been the fun, positive side of trying to do something about the plastics issue. It’s a place where I get to use my creativity and give people ideas that they can actually use in their own lives….which brings me back to this Cardboard Costume Challenge….

What do you think? Sound like fun?

By the way, I have a bit of experience making a costume out of cardboard myself. Back in 2008, I dressed as a BRITA filter cartridge for the SF Bay to Breakers during the campaign to get BRITA to take back and recycle its filters. One thing I learned, which I will pass on to you: Forget about sitting down. Just make sure that whatever you create, you can actually walk in and also climb stairs!

Take Back the Filter Bay to Breakers

And two more things:

If you have old costumes to get rid of, then National Costume Swap Day on October 13 is your lucky day.  You can get your swapping questions answered at a Twitter party tomorrow night from 9 to 10pm ET.  Follow @Green Halloween for details.

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Malena from THinc
10 years ago

LOVE the cardboard “brita” costume, Beth! hillarious! We’ll spread the word & people can use this challenge as one of their switches in our challenge! (:::

10 years ago

Oh, Beth, you’re so cute! Just like your mommy.

Beth Terry
10 years ago
Reply to  opaque4

Thanks, Dad. :-)

10 years ago

@groovygreenlivi @PlasticfreeBeth love this!