Are you concerned about harmful chemicals in the products you and your children use? If you’ve bought BPA free water bottles and stopped putting cheap plastic in the microwave, you might want to consider what other materials sneak in under the radar this Christmas.
In 2011 the Australian Government declared a ban on the use of plastics with more than 1% of the chemical DEHP (Diethylhexyl phthalate), in products designed for young children. The ban is for products that children up to the age of 36 months can “readily chew and/or suck”, such as eating utensils, childcare products, and toys.
Now I don’t know what your experience is with children 3 years and under, but mine is that given a chance, EVERYTHING goes in their mouth. That includes Christmas decorations like tinsel, poor quality plastic Christmas novelties, and plastic coated wrapping paper. I’m yet to be convinced that a chemical that’s banned for them is good for the rest of the family.
While it’s become much easier to find safer plastic in children’s toys in Australia, we continue to buy Christmas products that don’t meet the same standards. Worse still, because these products are poorer quality, they usually end up in landfill sooner, which is bad for the environment.
So this year I’m taking some simple steps to have a healthier and less disposable Christmas, while hopefully creating a more welcoming and artistic environment in my home.
I’m throwing out all of the poor quality plastic decorations that currently live in my home. Yes, they’ll go to landfill, but I’m making a promise to myself not to buy this type of low quality ‘future-trash’ again and reduce my long-term environmental footprint.
Stock take of what’s left: some very pretty Christmas baubles we’ve had in our family for years, some made from hand blown glass, others from fabric and wood.
As a general guide, materials such as metal, wood, glass, ceramic, and natural fibre fabrics are least likely to contain DEHP or other harmful chemicals so these get to stay (they’re the nicest ones anyway).
To top up my collection I’ve decided to buy a few hand made beauties. I’m lucky, because running an ethical e-store means I get to source handmade decorations and gifts that I think are beautiful an suit my own tastes, but you can find great Christmas decorations at lots of Australian ethical and sustainable retailers. Check out the following for ideas, all of whom sell products that are made in conditions that are good for workers, and the environment (no sweat shops or child labour here):
Biome has cute hand made and Fair Trade Christmas decorations that are non-toxic and safe for children (and adults)
Seven Women stock beautiful hand made decorations from Nepal, including a very unique felt ball Christmas tree I’ve got my eye on!
Oxfam are Fair Trade pioneers who have a good Christmas range. I love their Christmas cards and pretty gift-wraps in particular
Change Merchants – I may be biased, but my pick for this year are our recycled Sari fabric Christmas stockings, made by women escaping sex trafficking.
This is a entirely a decision about the time you are able or willing to dedicate to the task. A few of my favourite DIY tutorials are here:
Orange Pomanders – Dried oranges with cloves stuck in them in decorative patterns. Your house will smell amazing, but dry them out properly or they might attract ants – a very low-heat oven helps, pop them in after you’ve cooked something and turned the oven off to save electricity. Check out the easy to follow YouTube Video
(Image by Niklas Morberg via Flickr)
3D Paper Snowflakes made from recycled paper – Do a few in front of the TV one night. Unfolding the finished product is much more fun than you’ll care to admit! Check out this 3D Paper Snowflake tutorial
(Image via thismamamakesstuff.com )
The humble pinecone - find pinecones, brush them off, tie a colourful bow and attach it to the top, leaving enough to make a loop to hang them from your tree. Or, paint a few with non-toxic paint and stick them in a pretty bowl. Boom. You’re an Eco-Chic Goddess!
There are lots of great recycled gift-wrap options available in your local newsagent or online. However this year I’m using recycled brown paper and colourful natural fabric ribbon. The artistic amongst you will find lovely dried and fresh flowers to add, or even a sprig of rosemary, all of which will look stunning and are totally on-trend! For children’s gifts, brown paper with some non-toxic Christmas themed stamps are lots of fun. If you’ve got kids, outsource the gift-wrap decoration to them!
While we’re on gifts, I prefer to buy as many sustainably produced gifts as possible, or make my own gifts. My budget doesn’t stretch to buying lavish presents for everyone, so for those friends and family where we only exchange small gifts, I tend to make or buy something they can eat. Fair Trade chocolate, or perhaps some homemade shortbread are always welcomed.
Remember how you bought just a couple of amazing, safe and ethically produced Christmas decorations this year that you just love? Pop them in a box because you’ll love them next year too!
Buy less, buy quality. Toxic, disposable Christmas products are bad for you, bad for the environment, and bad for the people who make them. As consumers, we have the power to change what appears on our shelves, by simply asking for it, and spreading the word when we find better alternatives!
By Cat Candiloro
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