Each year holiday decorations provide opportunities to foster family traditions and foundations for normalcy within our generation. But our decorating traditions should not negatively impact future generations. While lights, trees, ornaments, wrapping paper and candles are mainstays in the holiday decorating tradition many of them eventually end up in the landfill or in our air as long lasting pollutants. Being aware of what is a potential hazard and what alternatives there may be is important and necessary for future generations.
Unfortunately more than half of the lights found in homes today contain lead. Lead is found in the vinyl used to coat wiring and sockets. Lights should be kept away from children, as they are most susceptible to lead poisoning. LED lights are the most energy efficient. Consumers can also purchase lights that uphold the more strict European standards as called for by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS).
To be fake or not to be fake: that is the question. Buying a fake tree can be a green alternative if purchased thoughtfully. Formerly trees were only manufactured with compressed polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a known carcinogen. Fake trees are now available using a polyethylene (PE) plastic, which is a safer plastic. If you choose to purchase a fake tree, purchase a PE made tree.
If real is your deal, consider using a balled tree that can be planted outside after the holidays. If you cut your tree, then know that because Christmas trees are grown as crops, they are renewable. Further, once Christmas is over, trees can be used for erosion control or mulch.
Many ornaments, particularly glass and/or antique are painted using lead or even mercury. When purchasing newer glass ornaments be mindful of its country of origin. Ornaments made in China are likely to contain lead or other toxic paints. For antique ornaments, wash hands after handing or use rubber gloves.
Many wrapping supplies, particularly foils and papers with metallic finishes, still contain lead. Wrapping paper alternatives include cloth gift bags or wrapping, pots, buckets, maps, brown paper bags, and cut up shopping bags. Toppers might include string or wire instead of disposable ribbon. Use pinecones, cinnamon sticks, a gingerbread cookie or scrolled wood ornaments for adornment. Using your talents leave a far greater impression than store bought baubles.
Most candles are made with synthetic fragrances and petroleum-based products, which emit toluene, benzene, alkanes and alkenes. All of these affect the air we breathe. Eco friendly candle alternatives including those made with rolled beeswax and soy are available.