Holiday decorations inside window

The stockings may be hung by the chimney with care, but are chemicals and toxins polluting your indoor air?

Each year, we adorn our homes with holiday decor, unknowingly opening a Pandora’s Box that could be making the whole family feel ill. Many folks chalk up their headaches, runny noses and body aches to holiday stress, colds, or the flu, when the real culprit is the decorations that are supposed to make us feel good!

The holidays – and every day – could be a struggle for your system. Add holiday baking, gifting and decorating into the mix, and you have an even greater recipe for disaster.

The good news is there are plenty of easy ways to save your health, have a greener holiday and still enjoy plenty of merriment. Here are 7 healthy home tips to get started.

Real Christmas tree
Image courtesy of K. Shuyler

1.) To Green or Not to Green? While cutting down trees isn’t a great idea, artificial trees can be harmful to your health and the environment since most are made of #3 plastic; polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Dubbed the most toxic plastic, PVC is a nonrenewable petroleum byproduct that cannot be recycled. Lead and cadmium can leach from the plastic as it degrades and can be ingested by a child or pet. Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause severe damage to the nervous system, especially in children.

The solution? A live, potted tree that can be replanted after the holidays are over. Live trees absorb carbon dioxide, emit oxygen, and can be replanted in your yard or recycled after the holidays. Visit the Living Christmas Company where you can rent a potted tree for the season! They will deliver it and pick it up after the holidays where it will continue to grow!

Did You Know? It’s free to have your real tree recycled. Contact your local city government for specific tree collection days or enter your zip code HERE.

2.) Avoid Toxic Ornaments. Choose ornaments made of natural materials like wood, fabric or glass versus synthetic plastic or imported metal. Metal ornaments from China may contain lead, or polymer clay. Polymer clays are usually made of PVC. Or, try an old-fashioned Christmas with gingerbread ornaments and popcorn strings.

3.) Find Alternatives to Wasteful Paper. In the U.S. we generate an additional 5 million tons of waste during the holidays.  This accounts for 25% more waste than any other time of year. Choose 100% recycled wrapping paper with soy ink.

Instead of using paper or a plastic bag that’s just going to end up in the landfill, opt for a natural fibered bag made from cloth that can be reused again and again. Wrapsacks makes trackable, reusable cloth gift bags you can follow online to see where they end up next!

You can also get creative with newspaper, maps or the funny pages. To finish the look, choose cinnamon sticks and raffia for bows.

Wrapping paper alternatives
Nicely done Kevin! Image courtesy of Kevin O’Mara

4.) Send Cards Without a Footprint: According to Hallmark, 2 billion cards are sent each year during the holidays, most of which will end up in landfills. Try cards from Bloomin’ Flower Cards with soy inks and embedded seeds that can be planted to grow flowers when finished.

Or, try recycled cards from Pleasantrees or send your sentiments electronically via Paperless Post! You can design your own custom cards, sans the stamps and trip to the post office.

5.) Light Your Way to Safety & Savings. LED (light-emitting diode) twinkle lights never get hot and can cut about 90 percent from your electric bill. LED, the same technology that lights the display on your watch or calculator, converts energy into light rather than heat. In fact, LED bulbs last up to10 times longer than compact fluorescents bulbs.

6.) Know Which Candles to Avoid. Most candles are made from paraffin wax, synthetic fragrance, dyes– among other toxins – which release harmful chemicals directly into the air we breathe while burning including: toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde; all of which are known carcinogens, Look for soy-based, beeswax or vegetable-based wax candles, versus paraffin (petroleum derived) varieties.

Also, be cognizant to purchase those that are unscented or derived from 100% essential oils – like peppermint, balsam fir or cinnamon which are perfect for the holidays.

7.) Breathe Easier Holiday baking releases unhealthy gases and particles into the air. Natural air filters include: Poinsettias, Norfolk Island pines and the Christmas cactus. According to a study by NASA scientists, these 3 plants not only add oxygen to your air, but actually absorb toxins and chemical vapors. Keep ‘em year-round as mini air purifiers; ideally, one plant for every 100 square-feet of your home to effectively clean. They add vibrant color to your home, make a great hostess gift and will have you breathing a sigh of relief from the holiday stress!

Happy, healthy holidays!

Feature image courtesy of Cliff 

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."