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Holiday Decorating without the Plastic

Zero waste, better for your health, and timeless

With Halloween solidly in the rearview mirror, the Holiday season is officially upon us. This also means that decorations are popping up everywhere. No matter where you go, stores are full of aisles stuffed with holiday decorations. While all of these cute baubles and tchotchkes might help you set the scene for your big family dinner, after the fact they are probably going to end up in the trash. If you are good about organizing, they might end up in a holiday box for next year, but chances are you will forget you had them and just get new ones again. To help you overcome the cycle and still fill your home with some adorable, fun, easy to reuse holiday decorations, we created a list of some of our favorite plastic-free holiday decorations.


Why the focus on plastic free? Plastic has some important uses in the world, but making (often) one-time-use decorations doesn't fall high on that list. And, both the production of plastic and the disposal of it can end up putting some of the chemicals used to create it into the world we live in, which means it can come back to haunt us in terms of our health (1). We don't love that, so we try to limit our use of plastic when we can. Decorating for the holidays is definitely one of those times. So, here's a list of some of our favorite plastic-free, healthy, and on theme holiday decorations.

From Nature

Birch logs

Their white bark gives them a snowy feel and makes them a great addition to tablescapes or vases full of dried flowers and cranberries.

Pine Cones

You can either buy these at your local stores or go on an adventure to find ones in your neighborhood. They are totally festive, smell great, and look cool just piled in a bowl. You can also string some together to make a festive garland or paint the tips white for a frosty look.

Garland and Wreaths

Looking for some hints of green in your decorating scheme? Grab some pieces of pine tree or other evergreens. You can attach them to a wire wreath frame, tie them together with string or wire, or even just place them in a vase and it will be sure to look beautiful. Some holly mixed throughout can add also work to add a pop of red.

Flowers both fresh and dried

Dried flowers last for a long time and add some warmth to a room. Fresh flowers smell nice and of course always look pretty. Poinsettia are common this time of year, and because they are more like a plant, they tend to last longer. You can also put together bouquets of fall leaves or greenery that can look pretty cool. Even a fallen or branch you just pruned can be the perfect holiday accent.

Gourds and Squash

It's still Fall, so while winter decorating may be on the brain, gourds are still a great option that always makes a room feel warm and seasonally appropriate.

Cranberries and Popcorn

This is an old standby for a reason. It's super festive, a fun activity to put together with the family, and all the supplies are things you can pick up at the grocery store. Drape it around your tree, hang it in a window, place it around your fireplace, wherever it goes, it will look great! If you don't want to spend the time stringing, a glass jar, bowl or vase filled with cranberries or popcorn or both could be fun.

Recyclable or Reusable

Paper confetti

If you like to use glitter or confetti, try looking for paper confetti instead of ones made of plastic or mylar. While those may be shinier, because of their shape and size, they are pretty good at polluting the environment and turning into microplastics in our waterways. Paper confetti can give you a similar effect, and it's totally recyclable. Plus, if you choose white, it sort of looks like snow. If you still want the sparkle, try choosing biodegradable glitters.

Ornaments

Ornaments come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Some of your favorites from years past might be glass, wood, ceramic, or even metal, which is great. (This is just a note that if you are looking for new ornaments, stick with those materials,) Now, of course, you can put them on a tree, but ornaments also look great piled into vases. Think outside the box and put them to use throughout the house for a bit of pop.

Burlap and Cotton

These fabrics can add a more natural look to your decorations. Instead of creating a tablescape with fake snow, try putting this down as your base. Honestly, cotton table runners in white also look good. There's no need for fake snow from an aerosol can or a snow blanket to get that look - be creative! Side note: many "snow blankets" contain chemical flame retardants. Go for simple burlap or cotton to avoid these harmful chemicals.

Paper Snowflakes and Garlands

Again, a classic. You can make them as intricate or as simple as you like. Make them small or large, it doesn't matter, they are fun. Same goes with paper garlands. You can make them by stringing the snowflake together, getting creative with other shapes, or just by making paper chains like you did as a kid. Speaking of which, this is a great way to get the kids involved and turn it into an afternoon craft project. They can even help place them around the house. These are a perfect swap for window decals that are often made of vinyl, which contains phthalates.

Ribbons and Yarn

Again we're looking for a way to replace the sparkle and eye-catching nature of something shiny. While tinsel can add a magical look and feel to trees, it's often made of PVC, and as we all know, it can end up shedding small pieces everywhere. Instead of donning your tree with tinsel, try using ribbon or yarn. It will still hang vertically and can come in thin strips like icicle tinsel, it just may not have quite the same sparkle. To get the sparkle effect, some people use strings of beads (we'd suggest glass beads here).


References

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299092/

Family

Keep These Common Household Items Out of Reach From Teething Babies

And why we recommend always having a safe teether on hand

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. We recommend always having a safe teether on hand, whether you're at home or on the go. Even though common everyday items may look harmless, there can be unsafe substances that your little one can ingest if they're chewing on them.

Wondering what household items could be harmful to chew on? Here are some common items that you shouldn't let your little one chew on, even though it's so tempting to let them gnaw.

Keys

Keys are always in our purses or pockets and babies are fascinated with them. Sometimes they're the perfect distraction to avoiding a meltdown in the grocery story line. But it's actually not a good idea to let your little ones chew on keys or even play with them. The metals used to make keys vary greatly, but many brass keys can contain up to 2.5% lead (1,2). Even keys that don't look like brass might be plated in another metal, which can wear off over time. Not all keys contain lead, but it's impossible to know for sure which ones do and don't. So pick one of our safe teethers, including these Kleynimal Stainless Steel Keys, and make sure to pack it for your next grocery run.

Remote Controls

Remotes have colorful buttons and fit perfectly in little hands, so it's no wonder you always see babies chewing on the ends. But remotes contain batteries, which are not safe anywhere near your child's mouth. Additionally, household electronics like remotes contain flame retardants, which can come off into mouths and on hands. Try to limit contact with remotes and definitely don't let them become toys! We like to keep them out of reach on a shelf.

Cell Phones

It seems like all babies become obsessed with cell phones... probably because they see us constantly looking at them! But is it safe to let your baby chew or mouth your phone? Definitely not. Cell phones are covered in germs, including some pretty nasty pathogens like E. Coli (3). They also contain a lot of chemicals and substances, like batteries, heavy metals, flame retardants, and plasticizers, which are all toxic. Plus, if your baby is teething or has teeth, they could chip the phone and little pieces could come off that can be a choking hazard. Because of all these hazards, teething babies and cell phones are not a good match. But if your child is old enough to play games on your phone, wash their (and your!) hands after they use it, especially before snacks and meals.

Jewelry

Jewelry is sparkly, shiny, and colorful, which basically just screams "please put me in your mouth!" to babies. Unfortunately, metal jewelry can contain toxic heavy metals like lead and cadmium while plastic jewelry can contain bisphenols or plasticizers. Lead is a dangerous neurotoxin at any dose, and cadmium can cause kidney, bone, and lung damage. Brass is also a common component in jewelry, which can contain up to 3% lead. And just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's safer; jewelry at all sorts of price points have been found to contain these heavy metals. Research has found that the amount of heavy metals that get ingested while chewing or mouthing jewelry can be dangerous (4). Even jewelry that seems completely harmless, like Mardi Gras beads, has been found to contain toxic substances. So let jewelry be just something nice to look at and let kids chew on a set of silicone teething beads instead.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses come in all sorts of sizes and shapes nowadays, but most sunglasses are made of a polycarbonate plastic that contains BPA. While it may not be a big exposure risk for adults who wear them, letting your little one chew on them or suck the ends is not the best idea. BPA is a hormone disruptor and kids are especially vulnerable as they are in a sensitive growth period. Yet another reason to always pack a safe teether in your bag if your little one is an especially mouthy one!

References
  1. https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/leadinkeysen011804.pdf
  2. Kondrashov, Vladislav, et al. "Assessment of lead exposure risk in locksmiths." International journal of environmental research and public health 2.1 (2005): 164-169.
  3. Pal, Shekhar, et al. "Mobile phones: Reservoirs for the transmission of nosocomial pathogens." Advanced biomedical research 4 (2015).
  4. Weidenhamer, Jeffrey D., et al. "Bioavailability of cadmium in inexpensive jewelry." Environmental health perspectives 119.7 (2011): 1029-1033.
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Roundups

9 Non-Toxic Teethers

Your baby will love chewing on these safe materials!

We're all guilty of just letting our teething baby chew anything they can get their hands on. What's the harm as long as it's not a choking hazard? A little dirt is good right? Turns out, there are some common household items that you definitely don't want your kids to chew on because they contain toxic chemicals or substances like lead and flame retardants. Having a safe teether made of silicone or wood is your best bet for your baby's health. Check out our 9 favorite options that will give your little one some relief and will also make for some cute photos!


9 Non-Toxic Teethers

a) Bonbino Teething Rings

b) Itzy Ritzy Cactus Teether

c) Loulou lollipop Llama Teether

d) Chewbeads Elephant Teether

e) Caaocho Sola the Goat

f) Bumkins Gameboy Teether

g) Maple Landmark Ring Teether

h) Oli and Carol Kendall the Kale

i) Kleynimals Toy Keys

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Home

Non-Toxic Candle Roundup

They smell even better than they look! Plus no harmful chemicals

Trying to set the perfect mood for Valentine's Day? We've got you covered! Our candle roundup is a great guide to finding the perfect candle. Most candles contain paraffin wax, which is made from petroleum and use fragrance oil. And fragrance can contain a ton of harmful chemicals. Our candles only use natural wax like soy or beeswax, and only contain essential oils! Plus they all smell amazing!



a) Aira Soy Candles
b) Lulu Candles Natura 100% Organic Soy Vegan Wax Candle
c) Big Dipper Beeswax Aromatherapy candle
d) Milk + Honey essential oil candle
e) Pure Plant Home glass candle
f) Edens Garden essential oil candles

Wondering why you need a non-toxic candle? Candles release compounds known as volatile organic compounds whether they are lit or not (1). VOCs can have both short and long term adverse health effects and there are consistently higher concentrations of VOCs indoors than outdoors. The majority of the VOCs released from candles is because they doesn't burn cleanly, which releases acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, phenol, benzene, and toluene, many of which are carcinogenic (3). Phenols (one of the words in that list if you jumped to the end of the sentence when you started seeing a bunch of scary words) are the fragrance chemicals that make candles smell like brown sugar, wild mango, and clean laundry. It makes sense that it would take some pretty weird chemicals to bottle up the smell of a tropical island in a single candle, right?

It's definitely healthier and safer to go with candles scented with essential oils to avoid some of these nasty VOCs. A few of the other VOCs released can cause changes to our DNA (and in some cases, bad changes!). Of all of the VOCs released, formaldehyde and acrolein are the other two biggest worries because they are released in the highest concentrations. Formaldehyde itself can cause cancer (4) while acrolein, which is used to make weapons in high concentrations, can kill you if you breathe in too much of it - Yikes (5). I don't know about you, but those are some things I definitely don't want to invite to my relaxing spa night!

Candles are also traditionally and most commonly made of paraffin, which is obtained from petroleum or shale. We recommend candles made from beeswax or soy because they come from natural sources. Some candles wicks may contain lead, so always make sure to look for a "lead-free" wick made from cotton.


References

1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414010243

2. http://candles.org/elements-of-a-candle/wax/

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010010502

4. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=39

5. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp124-c1-b.pdf


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.







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