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Holiday Presents for Your Family: Gifts Without Guilt

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Elva Etienne / Moment / Getty Images

By Ketura Persellin

Gift-giving is filled with minefields, but the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) got your back, so you don't need to worry about inadvertently giving family members presents laden with toxic chemicals. With that in mind, here are our suggestions for gifts to give your family this season.


For Babies

Safer Toys

Grandma may be surprised to find out that cherished heirlooms from her childhood may be covered with lead-based paint, and this year's plastic "It" toy may contain PVC or other harmful chemicals. Steer well-meaning friends and family toward safer options, like toys made of natural materials like untreated wood, bamboo, hemp or organic cotton.

Healthy Bath Time

Babies' developing brains, organs and hormonal systems are especially sensitive to chemicals of concern hidden in bath products like shampoo, lotion and diaper cream. However, there are an increasing number of EWG VERIFIED™ baby care products, which meet our scientists' strictest ingredient and transparency standards.

For Kids and Teens

Environmental Activism on Trend

Believe it or not, you may see reusable straws on your kids' holiday wish list this year, as teens and tweens are rejecting single-use plastic, pushed by the VSCO girl trend and images of sea turtles killed by plastic waste ubiquitous on social media. Choose from one of the many metal or silicone straws available this season, now in a rainbow of colors, some even sporting their own little carrying case.

Your teen may also appreciate a reusable coffee tumbler to go with that straw.

This way they'll be avoiding the PFAS chemical coating used on paper coffee cups and the side-eye from their friends for using single-use cups and plastic lids. Look for one made of ceramic or stainless steel.

Safer Clothing

Many types of clothing come with chemicals that can be harmful to children's health, like children's pajamas treated with flame retardants and winter coats coated with PFAS chemicals for waterproofing. To avoid this, choose children's pajamas made out of cotton and/or marked as not flame resistant on the tag. To make sure what you're giving doesn't contain toxic fluorinated chemicals, check out this list of companies making PFAS-free clothing and shoes.

Clean Beauty

Clean beauty and elaborate skin care routines are also trending this year. Children are the most susceptible to the health harms associated with endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and other chemicals of concern in personal care products. Use EWG's Skin Deep® and EWG VERIFIED™ databases to find gift ideas for the kids on your list – without dangerous chemicals. These include:

  • Stuff stockings with green-rated lip balm.
  • Clean makeup options – like eye shadow, highlighter and mascara – that will let them keep up with the latest makeup tutorial while still protecting their health.
  • Face masks – trendy among the teenage set – but who knows what ingredients they typically contain? Steer clear of harmful chemicals by finding one that's Skin Deep® green-rated or EWG VERIFIED, like one of these. (Keep in mind that single-use products have more of an impact on the environment.)
  • The gift of an after-shave lotion or balm made with safer chemicals. Kids who have just started to shave will be pleased to have that milestone acknowledged.

For your Partner or Spouse

If you're lucky enough to have another adult along for the ride during your childrearing years, thank them with a holiday gift that's free from chemicals of concern.

Detox Their Coffee Routine

There are many beautiful and plastic-free options for the sleep-deprived adults on your list – pour-over coffee makers are simple for making a single cup and come in many glass and ceramic styles. You can even find a reusable stainless steel filter. For multiple cup operations, choose a double-wall glass French press (the double wall keeps coffee warmer, longer) or a stainless steel percolator.

Grown-Ups Love Clean Beauty, Too

  • A splurge for a special man or woman on your list is Henry Rose, the fragrance created by EWG board member Michelle Pfeiffer. It's EWG's first fine fragrance that's 100 percent transparent – made without EWG's chemicals of concern, with full ingredient disclosure on the label and to EWG.
  • A luxurious beard oil and brush kit makes a great gift. Look for beard oils with a green rating in the Skin Deep® database and brushes with wood or bamboo handles.
  • Makeup wipes are hot right now, but their disposable nature and questionable ingredients are not as fun. Look for reusable cotton wipes in undyed organic cotton.

Green Kitchens Are More Than a Design Trend

If you're like most parents, you try to feed your family without exposing them to harmful chemicals. So it's a disappointment to discover that the cookware and food storage you've been using might be toxic. Surprise the chef on your list with a few cleaner, greener product swaps:

  • Cast iron or carbon steel sauté pans and griddles are beautiful, long-lasting alternatives to nonstick cookware, which is often made with toxic PFAS, the notorious Teflon chemical.
  • Enamel-coated pots and Dutch ovens in bright, beautiful colors that any chef would be happy to add to their collection.
  • Waffle makers and crepe pans are a gift everyone can enjoy – but they're typically coated with nonstick chemicals. Instead, choose a waffle maker made of cast iron or coated with enamel, or a crepe pan made of lightweight carbon steel.

Support EWG

You want to feed your family more vegetables, but getting your kids' buy-in is no small challenge. One approach: Your purchase of the 2019 EWG Holiday Gift Box includes the new cookbook by noted chef Abra Behrens, Ruffage, lauded as a both an homage to vegetables and a practical guide. Bonus: Proceeds support EWG's ongoing research and advocacy work.

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