Tip of the Month: Deck the halls without the toxics

Last Updated on December 31, 2013

The holiday season is upon us. While you’re getting into the festive spirit by hanging up decorations or buying gifts for loved ones, there is chance that something not-so-festive could sneak into your home: toxic chemicals. Some of these chemicals have links to cancer, obesity, asthma and a slew of other health problems.

Here are some tips on how to create a jolly, and non-toxic, atmosphere in your home this holiday season.

Decorate the green way

Toxic chemicals can hide in festive items such as holiday trees, lights, and ornaments.

Phthalates can be found in plastic holiday ornaments, as well as scented items like candles. Phthalates are a group of chemicals linked to asthma, they can be a risk factor for diabetes, and one phthalate – DEHP – has been classified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Scary stuff, butyou can easily make your home smell like the holidays the natural way by using essential oils, cinnamon sticks, and evergreen branches.

When it comes to decorations, au natural is also best. Choose ornaments made of natural materials such as metal, wood or ceramic. Or, for family fun, make your own! Here are some ideas:

  • Try crafting your own ornaments from things found in nature, like real evergreen branches, pine cones, chestnuts, sticks, twigs, pumpkins and gourds. You can compost these afterwards.
  • Let your kids make decorations out of coloured construction paper. That way you can recycle the paper later.
  • Re-use outgrown or worn-out cotton, linen or wool clothes to make your own holiday stockings or table runners.

One more thing to note: if you like to have a holiday tree, beware of fake ones– especially older ones – because they can contain lead and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). In California, most artificial trees are required to come with a warning label for this very reason. Research has shown that lead dust tends to leach out from fake trees over time. If you buy a real tree, ask your local tree farm if they use pesticides. If the tree still has roots, even better. You can plant it when you’re done!

Choose non-toxic gifts

From toys to electronics, there is a chance that whatever is on your loved one’s wish list, it might include nasty chemicals.

Looking for bubble bath, soap or other personal care products to give as a gift? These products can also contain toxic ingredients – some of which have been linked to cancer, allergies and other health problems. You can find a list of the Toxic Ten chemicals to avoid in personal care products by visiting environmentaldefence.ca/toxicten. Also read our latest report to find out how the five biggest cosmetics companies in Canada rank when it comes to toxics.

Kids are exposed to harmful chemicals when they put toys into their mouths. This is a concern because kids, and in particular babies, are vulnerable to environmental toxins because their biological systems are still developing. While shopping for toys, choose items that are made from natural materials such as wood, stainless steel and organic cotton.

Give the gift of nature

The best part of the holiday season is getting together and spending time with friends and family. It doesn’t mean we have to spend money, or bring unwanted chemicals into the home, to do so. Plan an outing such as skating, skiing or snowshoeing and take advantage of the beautiful nature in your area. Also, check out Environmental Defence’s Gifts for the Future to find meaningful gifts that inspire change and defend our environment.

By following the above simple tips, you can go a long way to making this holiday season festive and toxic-free. Want more ideas? Check out our Storify for highlights from our recent Twitter chat on the topic that we co-hosted with Green Moms Collective.

We wish you and your family a happy, and toxic-free, holiday season.

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101 thoughts on “Tip of the Month: Deck the halls without the toxics

  1. When we spray any strong cleaners, we try to keep the area well ventilated by opening windows and/or turning a fan on. Would like to start using some more environmentally-friendly products!

  2. Im going to be honest and say not a lot! Im kind of green when it comes to this stuff! I do believe its never too late to start tho and Im very interested to give it a try.

  3. Don’t use products with ammonia in them, practice clean eating as much as possible (organic, non-gmo), make my own deodorant, (coconut oil & corn starch based) toothpaste (coconut oil, peppermint essential oil & baking soda based) laundry detergent, shampoos & soaps, dishwasher detergent, makeup (cocoa powder, cinnamon, beet root powder, french clay, all natural organic based), cleaning products (lemon-based), everything from nature! Although, I must say there are times when it seems impossible to find substitutes, which is where products like these ones would come in very handy!

  4. I use norwex cleaning products, no chemicals. I also have plants around the house to help take toxins out of the air.

  5. Use most of the old tried and true methods from the old days before companies bombarded us with chemicals. I use vinegar and water to clean windows with newspaper. I use baking soda to clean pots etc. I clean floors with natural products. I use candles to dissapate smells.

  6. We do not use any dryer sheets, just vinegar. I basically use vinegar for everything I love it! I even use it to wash all the fruits and veggies from the store =)

  7. I use all natural cleaning products and some I even make. I stop using aerosol sprays 10 years ago when even our dog was coughing when I sprayed air fresheners.

  8. Use cleaning cloths vs. chemicals, I have a steamer for cleaning floors and we use dryer balls vs sheets in the dryer

  9. I make my own home cleaning items (ie with vinegar & baking soda). Also we’re going to get a dehumidifier to lessen our exposure to molds

  10. We use natural laundry products and white vinegar in the rinse water. We no longer use aerosol sprays for anything including the baking pan sprays.

  11. Well, I have not been doing anything, and I notice my hands dry, and a constant cough. I have been looking for something like natural products.

  12. I open the windows to let the fresh air in as much as possible and have been buying more natural products and using natural ingredients in my home , as the other cleaners run out.

  13. I try to buy green products, free of all the nasty chemicals out there. But I know I don’t always get that.

  14. about 90% of our household cleaner(s) are vinegar.. we use it in our laundry, cleaning surfaces and glass… we even use it as our weed killer in the garden

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