You've made your list and checked it twice. You're getting gifts whether they've been naughty or nice... As "Santa's helper" you've got your hands full with keeping all the gifts and recipients straight, and we're here to help you make sure all that holiday shopping is as green as can be!
Our tips for greening the holidays are guaranteed to keep the environment and the little tykes in your life healthier.
Color Your World
Crayola may be the go-to company for crayons, but did you know the crayon giant makes their top product with paraffin? You might wonder what the big deal is; after all, paraffin is used for making candles, and if it's in crayons it can't be all that bad, right? Wrong. Paraffin is made from the residue of the oil refining process. If you don't relish the idea of the little tyke gnawing on a petrochemical, go for beeswax crayons. They're not cheap?it can cost as much as $30 for a box of crayons?but they're a better option for little kids. As your children grow and learn that not everything belongs in their mouths, you can switch back to paraffin crayons, or better yet, switch to pencil crayons!
Huggable, Lovable Toys
Look for plush toys made with organic cotton or bamboo this holiday season. Plush toys are often made with polyester fibers, which are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PTE or PETE), a petroleum-based synthetic polymer plastic. Not surprisingly, polyester products are highly flammable and are treated with fire-retardants, many of which are neurotoxins. If that isn't enough to put you off polyester toys, the chemical Antimony, used as a catalyst in polyester production, has been linked to heart problems, lung cancer and fertility problems in animals exposed the chemical. Antimony trioxide, used as an enhancer of brominated flame retardants, is classified as a carcinogen by the state of California. Bottom line: leave polyester products on the shelves and opt for plush toys made with natural, organic materials.
What Not to Wear
Just like it's a good idea to go organic with children's toys, organic clothing is a healthier option for children and the world. The conventional cotton industry consumes a shocking amount of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. The chemicals used on cotton farms have been linked to smog advisories and marine pollution in the U.S., and many are known or suspected carcinogens and lead to a host of other health issues, including asthma. While most experts agree that these chemicals are eliminated from cotton in textile production, the indirect health effects are serious enough to warrant switching to organic cotton clothing. And while you're at it, pick up some bamboo clothing?the plants grow quickly and offer another natural alternative to conventionally grown cotton.
Batteries Not Included?
Avoid gifts that require batteries. There's no better way to cut down on battery waste than to eliminate battery-dependent products from your home. Three billion dry-cell batteries are purchased by Americans each year, and while many are recycled, 179,000 tons of batteries are thrown out every year in the U.S.?and about 14,000 tons of these are rechargeable! The heavy metals in batteries that end up in dumps leach into the soil and water table, polluting our communities. If you can't resist getting the little tyke a talking doll or a roaming robot, invest in some rechargeable batteries and include them with the gift.
We've all heard about the virtues of eating locally, but meats and produce aren't the only home-grown items available these days?and if you're not already buying gifts made close to home, there's no time like the present to start. Not only will buying locally cut down on the carbon footprint attached to junior's new wooden puzzle, it will help boost the local economy. There's no getting around buying some gifts from overseas?the season's hottest toys are mostly manufactured in Asia?but you can make a difference with unique, locally-crafted items that your kids will cherish for years to come.
Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of NaturallySavvy.com about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.