Events similar to this one, called Pumpkin Smash, are held around the country after Halloween. The reason is to protect the environment. Every year, 650,000 tons of pumpkins end up in landfills in the U.S. That’s equal to the weight of about 16,250 semi trucks. When buried in a landfill, pumpkins decompose, or break down, releasing methane. This greenhouse gas traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere, causing the planet’s average temperature to increase.
Last year, students at Downers Grove South High School collected almost 4 tons of pumpkins. Instead of being tossed in the trash, the gourds were composted. This process turns rotting organic matter into nutrients that can help plants grow—without producing harmful methane. It’s a win-win! By keeping your next jack-o’-lantern out of a landfill, you can help the planet too. “We can all be champions of the environment,” says Kay McKeen, the founder of SCARCE, an organization that helps coordinate Pumpkin Smash events throughout Illinois.