Holiday Awareness Tips

Awareness plus creativity can go a long way toward a healthier holiday! Here are a few tips and suggestions for making your home both beautifully festive and safely toxic-free this holiday season.


Poinsettias are officially a non-toxic plant, contrary to popular myth. They are, however, commonly sprayed with chemicals as part of the growers’ height control program. Organically grown poinsettias are the best option and worth a call to your local greenhouse. (New York City, for example, boasts this greenhouse offering poinsettias and many other indoor plants that are organically grown.)

In addition, poinsettia plants contain a latex protein. People with a latex allergy can quickly become ill, and often don’t know exactly what they are reacting to when walking into a room containing poinsettias.

Christmas Trees:

Pesticides are used extensively in the growing of the traditional Christmas tree. While many of the chemicals will have been removed by exposure to rain and/or ultraviolet light, some will remain. Beyond Pesticides provides this list of pesticides commonly sprayed on Christmas trees.

When possible, purchase an organic tree. Green Promise has made available this list of organic growers, which spans 22 states and includes suppliers of organic trees, wreaths, mistletoe, and other greenery. Local Harvest offers organic mail order wreaths.

According to this December 2005 article in Natural Health Magazine by Janelle Brown:

"Don't feel guilty about buying a tree," says Deborah Gangloff, executive director of American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization. Holiday trees are grown as a sustainable crop; in fact, 1 acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen to support 18 people, and provides habitats for birds and wildlife. Buying an artificial tree isn't a better choice, since most faux foliage is made from earth-toxic PVC.

"The very best thing you can do is buy a live tree--not a cut tree, but a live tree, with a root ball," Gangloff advises.

Why not consider an alternative Christmas tree that's neither fake nor fir? Here are a few options:

  • Driftwood. Make your own display out of driftwood or custom order from All Driftwood Furniture.
  • Tumbleweed. This is an excellent possibility for those in the southwest. See this article for tips.
  • Tree branches. Find your own branches or buy from Manzanita Burlworks. Secure the branch in a large ceramic pot. Add smaller branches to fill out. Add lights and ornaments, and enjoy!

Fireplace Logs:

Consider using eco-friendly alternatives for indoor fire burning. Options include:


Most candles contain paraffin, a petroleum by-product. Consider using 100% pure beeswax candles, available from sources such as:

Or try using other methods to create your own festive fragrance:
  • Make your own evergreen scent by diffusing or simmering pine essential oil.
  • Create your own Christmas fragrance using this recipe:
    3 cinnamon sticks
    3 bay leaves
    1/4 c. cloves
    1/2 sliced lemon
    1/2 sliced orange
    1 quart water
    Simmer on the back burner of your stove and replenish as needed!