Quantcast

6 Green Alternatives to Toxic Holiday Decorations

Every Christmas season, U.S. consumers purchase tons of cheaply made garland, wrappings and ornaments that are chock-full of toxic chemicals. Why not try a green approach to holiday decorating this year that is gentler on the environment and is far more beautiful.

Here are, courtesy of Care2, six common holiday decorations that contain harmful chemicals or unsustainable ingredients, as well as eco-friendlier alternatives you can use to achieve the same look.

Photo credit:
Shutterstock

1. Artificial Christmas trees. If you’re going to use a fake tree (and there are many green reasons to do so), it’s important to choose carefully. Until recently, artificial Christmas trees were cut from compressed sheets of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a known human carcinogen. Now some tree makers have switched to injection-molded polyethylene plastic, which is safer but still plastic.

Alternatives: Use this guide from SoftLanding to choose a non-PVC artificial tree. Or choose to decorate a living pesticide-free tree, bush or houseplant that will continue to clean your indoor air long after the holidays are over.

2. Spray-on snow. If you live in a region that doesn’t get much winter snow, you might be tempted to pick up a can of faux snow to give your windows and tree a just-frosted look. But many snow sprays contain acetone or methylene chloride and these solvents can be harmful when inhaled while spraying, according to California Poison Control. However, once the snow spray is dried, it is not dangerous.

Alternatives: Try cutting decorative snowflakes out of paper. You can use them again next year if you’re careful. You can also use cotton batting (sold at craft stores as stuffing for quilts and pillows) to create faux snow drifts along windowsills or around the tree.

3. Vintage ornaments. Like many things made before the time of health and environmental regulations, these pretty baubles can be hiding a toxic secret. They’ve been known to contain lead paint or mercury. Some are even called mercury glass ornaments. Even newer ornaments bearing the “Made in China” label can contain lead or toxic paints.

Alternatives: Consider wearing rubber gloves when you handle the old ornaments, or at least wash your hands right after. If you’re in need of new ornaments this year, think about making your own from natural or upcycled materials.

4. String lights. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the holidays without lights—those twinkling, blinking strings of color that adorn everything from tree to porch. Sadly, 54 percent of holiday lights tested in a U.S. study had more lead than regulators permit in children’s products, with some strands containing more than 30 times those levels, according to a recent report by Bloomberg. Lead is a common component in vinyl, the material used to coat light wirings and bulb sockets, according to HealthyStuff.org, which tested the lights. 

Alternatives:  Adults only should handle light strings and with care. If you’re in the market for new lights, look for LED strands sold by IKEA or on EnvironmentalLights.com. IKEA’s light strings satisfy the stricter European Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) regulations, while some brands sold by Environmental Lights claim to be lead-free.

5. Wrapping paper. While most wrapping paper and ribbons are non-toxic, foil and colored gift-wrap have been known to contain lead, making them dangerous to touch and even worse for the environment after they’re thrown away. And never burn holiday wrapping paper in the fireplace.

Alternatives: Make your own. Wrapping paper only lasts a few minutes anyway, and there are lots of other ways to prevent eyeballs from deciphering what’s inside the package. Check out these alternatives to gift wrapping paper.

6. Candles. Many types of candles pollute indoor air and put our health at risk. Most of the candles on the market are made with paraffin wax, derived from petroleum, and scented with synthetic fragrances, also derived from petroleum. Researchers have found that the petroleum-based candles emitted varying levels of cancer-causing toluene and benzene, as well as other hydrocarbon chemicals called alkanes and alkenes, which are components of gasoline and can irritate respiratory tracts and trigger asthma, reports Moms Clean Air Force.

Alternatives: Look for candles made from soybean, palm, hemp or beeswax—or make your own fragrant holiday candles using natural ingredients. Here are some recipes to make your own.

Want to make your own decorations? Remember the four Ps of holiday decorating from the Nature Conservancy's Nature Rocks project: Paper, plants, popcorn and pinecones. These natural and recycled materials are better for the planet, are prettier than manufactured products and creating them with your children or a friend is an enjoyable way to spend  time during the holidays.

Visit EcoWatch’s TIPS page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular

Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Essential Tool: Blender

It has paid for itself in homemade smoothies, soups, sauces and dips. It also means I don't have to buy those individual foods in unnecessary plastic containers. Blending scraps helps your compost, too!

Earth Day Tip: Skip the straw

If you feel weird about saying "no straw" at restaurants, just tell the waiter that you're allergic to plastic.

Olivia Rosane, reporter

Favorite Product: Seventh Generation products

Their household cleaning and personal care products are a great way to take care of yourself and your home in a way that is safe both for your health and the planet. Plus, their packaging is made from recycled materials and is designed to be recycled again.

Essential Tool: My portable thermos

I bring it with me when I order coffee or tea to go. That way I don't have to use paper cups, which are not actually recyclable, and some coffee shops even offer me a discount for bringing my own container!

Earth Day Tip: Get involved

In 2012, researcher Brad Werner ran a computer model and found our best shot at combating climate change was for people to form a mass social movement to demand it. So if you're worried about the environment, reach out to other people in your community and talk about what you can do together to make a difference!

Tara Bracco, managing editor

Favorite Product: Collapsible water bottle

Whether you're traveling or running errands, a reusable water bottle that's light and compact will help keep you hydrated and keep you from buying bottled water.

Essential Tool: Backpack

It's great for carrying your groceries home from the store, and you won't have to use plastic bags. If you have a long shopping list, try a rolling suitcase.

Earth Day Tip: Don't waste water

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. It can save eight gallons of water a day!

Chris McDermott, news editor

Favorite Product: Clothes from Patagonia

Patagonia makes a wide range of inspired products and their environmental policies are world class. They use only organic cotton in their clothes, and they even offer trade-ins, recycling and repairs at any time.

Essential Tool: RIVER mobile power station and solar generator

This powerful piece of mind is always ready regardless of storms and travel, for as long as one can tap the sun.

Earth Day Tip: Savor something vegan

There's no nutritional substitute for fresh, unprocessed food, but food science has revolutionized the taste and texture of vegan alternatives. For the pure delight of it, celebrate with Miyoko's Kitchen vegan cheese, Tofurky Italian sausage (30 grams of protein per serving!) and SoDelicious non-dairy dark chocolate truffle frozen dessert made with cashew milk.

Irma Omerhodzic, associate editor

Favorite Product: Living Libations's Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Unlike sunscreen, this skin product works with the sun and helps absorb the nutrients from the sun's rays while giving skin protection at the same time.

"Rather than being afraid of the sun, harmonize with it," Living Libations says. Love it!

Essential Tool: My bike

Not only is this an emission-free way to get around town, but it also gives my body the activity it needs.

Earth Day Tip: Start small

Your one "small" action isn't small at all.

Jordan Simmons, social media coordinator

Favorite Product: Sustainable clothing by Amanda Sage Collection

Designer Lana Gurevich uses patterns from Amanda's transformative paintings to create an ethically and environmentally conscious clothing line. While supporting local businesses and an eco-friendly printing method, the fabrics are made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

Essential Tool: My paintbrush and set of mineral paints

I found the all natural, biodegradable mineral paints at a local farmers' market in the Sacred Valley of Peru. I used to favor working with acrylic paints until I learned about their high carbon footprint and harmful substances.

Earth Day Tip: Honor Mother Earth

Gather some of Mother Nature's gifts such as stones, beautiful dried leaves and feathers. Set them in a special place in your home to create a unique "altar" to remind you to honor your Mother each and every day. Find peace and blessings in loving our home—the earth.

Popular
Will Rose / Greenpeace

7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future

By Jen Fela

We're celebrating a huge moment in the global movement for a plastic-free future: More than one million people around the world have called on big corporations to do their part to end single-use plastics.

Now we're taking the next big step. We're setting an ambitious new goal: A Million Acts of Blue.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

5 Environmental Victories to Inspire You This Earth Day

Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The work to be done can seem overwhelming. A survey published this week found that only 6 percent of Americans think we will succeed in reducing global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
A fin whale surfacing in Greenland. Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / CC BY 2.0

Iceland to Resume Killing Endangered Fin Whales

By Kitty Block

Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

Keep reading... Show less
Lyft

Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive

Lyft will make all of its rides carbon neutral starting immediately by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions, the company announced Thursday.

The ridesharing service, which is part of the We Are Still coalition, provides more than 10 million rides worldwide each week. "We feel immense responsibility for the profound impact that Lyft will have on our planet," founders John Zimmer and Logan Green wrote in a Medium post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Scroby Sands Wind Farm. Martin Pettitt / Flickr

UK Goes 55 Hours Without Coal Power, Breaking Record

Coal, which was once king in Great Britain, has continued its evident decline.

Absolutely zero coal was used to generate energy in UK power stations between 10:25 p.m. on Monday until 5:10 a.m. on Thursday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's a history-making run of 55 hours.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Indonesia Calls in the Army to Fight Plastic Enemy

In March, a diver's video of masses of plastic floating off the Indonesian coast went viral. But that plastic often reaches the ocean through the country's rivers, clogging them to such an extent that Indonesia had to call in the army, the BBC reported Thursday.

The BBC spent time on the ground in Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city, and observed a concentration of bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam packaging so large it looked like an iceberg.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!