Greener Holidays & Eliminating PVC Under The Tree

Hello!  I’ve been away for ages and miss writing terribly so I’m thrilled to be covering a few different issues on my mind: greener ways to wrap gifts, the annual ‘fake or real’ Christmas tree debate, and Toys R Us and toxic toys. Much of my time in the last 2 months has gone to sourcing for my on-line store Green Planet Parties. I wanted to find items that were very green and practical…items that are truly unique, truly green, and still whisper Christmas when you see them. What do you think about gift bags, gift wrap, gift tags, and cards that are seeded with wild flower seeds so they can be planted once they start to tear?  Sounds kinda cool right?  I thought so – I’m very proud of the category called ‘Christmas Wrapped Up‘ and the products listed here are either plantable or reusable. Not only are the plantable items magical, but the reusable cloth santa sacks, Furochic wrap, fabric gift tags, and wooden clothespin reusable/vintage vibe items looking great!  If you are like me, I cringe when I wrap presents for people or even when I reuse traditional gift bags because there is a strange odor from them.  It’s not my imagination..I’m convinced they are coated with something toxic. I know I should be using newspaper or craft paper, but sometimes (especially around the holidays) you want unique and seasonal presentation with gifts.  Enter plantable gift bags or wrap and cloth Santa Sacks – these products are truly green and will remove any guilt with wrapping your gift and leave you singing Fa La La La La the entire time!

My next holiday themed topic is the annual debate of ‘fake vs. real’ Christmas trees. Which one is truly kinder to the environment? Some people say that reusing a fake tree is a better choice because you’re not cutting down young trees each year.  Others will argue that trees grown specifically for Christmas season is a better choice for the environment. I haven’t felt qualified to cover this topic in recent years but I’m ready to voice my opinion and let me start by saying we’ve used a fake tree for close to 6 years and I always felt a little smug because the thought of cutting down baby trees made me sad.  But – then I learned that all fake Christmas trees are produced from PVC.  This is the plastic (#3) that is called poison plastic.  You just need to understand that after you purchase a fake tree it will never leave the earth in an environmentally kind way.  Never. It’s taken me years to fully understand that a fake Christmas tree releases toxic dioxins into the air, into our bodies from the time the plastic is produced with making it, after you purchase it (the reason it smells) and there isn’t a way to effectively dispose of the tree. If you burn it – more dioxins are released, it cannot be recycled, so it will continue to exist when discarded for a very long time. The issue of PVC isn’t only about it’s harm to the environment, but also human heath.  Please note that I’m not suggesting anyone with a fake Christmas tree throw it away.  When something is functional, it should be reused as much as possible.  This information is for people struggling with the decision of “should I purchase a fake tree this year”?  When I purchased my fake tree, I had no idea what it was made from. Now I can make an educated decision on my tree this year, but it won’t involve throwing out a fake tree if it’s still usable.  Would I ever purchase another one?  Definitely not.

A new trend last year were little tree companies that will bring you a potted tree to use over the holidays, then it’s returned to the nursery or transplanted. It is easy to find they companies using Google but I warn you, this option is wonderful and very eco-friendly, but it’s expensive. Could you not purchase a potted tree on your own for less money I wonder?

Or – a very sustainable option exists out of Chicago.  The price of this tree is the equivalent to an expensive fake tree – but it’s lovely and hand made, and I want one all for myself to decorate with acorn ornaments.  This picture is from the talented Forestry Handmade site… get ready to swoon.

Now that I’ve softened you up with wonderful relaxing photos of handcrafted Christmas trees, I have some hard facts about toys and PVC. I have drafted so many articles that I’ve never published because they are full rants about Hasbro, Disney, Barbie, Toys R Us, and many more companies that produce and sell plastic toys because of my frustration that they can’t keep the issue of ‘safe plastic’ a priority for our children’s health. I’m going to try and remove all the personal conflict I feel about plastic toys aside (I’ve ranted along these lines before) and stick to the facts that CHEJ outlined this week on a new site they’ve launched called Toxic Toys R Us. This is a project run by consumer advocates looking to inform consumers about the sale of PVC-contaminated toys at Toys R Us. The hard facts are that although Toys R Us promised to remove PVC plastic, phthalates, and lead from toys they sell back in 2008 but tests have shown that toys they sell still contain PVC and no amount of labelling from the large toy manufacturers will help parents to understand if they are truly safe.  I cannot wait for their Toxic Toys R Us 2010 Report…I wish it was already out. And it’s only Toys R Us that’s been called out on the issue of PVC and toys.. . and we should be aware that all other big box stores carry the same products, the same toys, with the same set of standards.  Again, what is the problem for a toy made from PVC to land under the tree Christmas morning?  The same problems that I outlined with the fake Christmas tree are true for toys.  I wonder if this is the Christmas that as parents (myself included) wake up and realize the damage plastic has done.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I have very mixed feeling about Christmas and it’s wonderful that I can purge my feelings and perhaps help others who might be confused about different choices we can make this holiday season.

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2 Responses to Greener Holidays & Eliminating PVC Under The Tree

  1. Rhonda November 18, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    Suzanne, thanks again for another great blog post. I, too, have mixed feelings about Christmas. In order to find safe/appropriate items for gifts, I have to look all year. There are times I am exhausted trying to find other options. I also want to thank you for letting us all know about the site Echoage. My daughter just had her first echoage party, and it will not be the last. No more guilt looking at all the plastic toys, gift wrap/bags afterwards, and she is very proud of herself for raising just under $200 for Free the Children. This isn’t an ad for them, but I just wanted to thank you for letting me know that I am not the only who feels like this.

  2. Jen November 18, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    We have a small townhouse with no real space for a Christmas tree. Last year I cut a life-size one out of green paper and let my daughter decorate it with stickers and paper ornaments. This year I think I am going to make a longer-lasting version out of felt, and attach hooks so that maybe we can hang our real ornaments from it. It can hang on the wall and we can reuse it for years (and no real-vs-fake debate).

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