3 Tips for a Healthier and More Sustainable Christmas
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — the holiday season is here, and Christmas is just around the corner. The time for joy, laughter, spending time with loved ones, exchanging presents, and enjoying delicious food.
As we prepare for the festivities, it’s important to remember the basics of good health.
You may have rolled your eyes when hearing about a “healthy Christmas,” but being healthy doesn’t have to be a burden.
In fact, making only a few seemingly insignificant changes can help you enter the new year feeling healthier and more energized.
So, what can we do to make this holiday season the best one yet?
One way we raise our Christmas spirits is by decorating our homes.
We light candles, deck the Christmas trees in colorful ornaments, and bring out all our holiday gnomes – these are just the tip of the Christmas iceberg.
But what inevitably ends up happening is that we fill our houses with “stuff.” And, as you may know from our previous articles, having a lot of stuff around isn’t necessarily good, especially given how most products are made nowadays.
All these decorations, candles, and other Christmas indulgences have the ability to interfere with our delicate hormonal and immune systems, which are responsible for regulating our bodies and, ultimately, our overall well-being.
So, If you’re committed to health over indulgence, let’s explore the steps we can take to protect ourselves from these potentially harmful environmental factors during the holiday season.
Choose a healthy Christmas tree
One way to do that is to choose a healthy Christmas tree.
Nowadays, it’s becoming more and more popular to prefer artificial Christmas trees to real ones.
But little do we know artificial or fake trees are usually made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is an extremely toxic compound. They cause pollution when being produced and are very hard to dispose of safely.
PVC is very tough, so the manufacturers also add softeners like lead and phthalates into the mix to make it moldable. Phthalates are well-known endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to asthma, neurodevelopmental issues, cancers, obesity, diabetes, and fertility issues.
These chemicals off-gas into our living spaces throughout the holidays and stay even longer, nesting in the furniture and house dust. The heat from the lights can further accelerate the process.
Now, we know that plastic trees can be toxic. But are real trees any better?
Most real Christmas trees come from farms where the trees are often sprayed with pesticides like glyphosate (Roundup) and chlorpyrifos. These aren’t good for the environment, farm workers, or homes.
If there aren’t any organic Christmas tree farms near, you can always head to the nearest forest to pick out the Christmas tree you like. Albeit not too fast, before going, make sure you are aware of all the local laws and regulations which could prohibit your Christmas spirit.
But one thing to keep in mind while getting an organic Christmas tree – watch out for mold. Especially if you have a family member who is mold-sensitive. Mold is natural in trees and within a forest, which is not a problem at all. But once you bring a tree indoors and close all the windows, you quickly create a mold issue.
If anyone in your family is mold-sensitive, we recommend skipping the tree altogether and prefer some alternatives, like building your own using untreated natural wood or simply decorating one of your house plants.
Get rid of synthetic candles and decorations
Another way to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is to choose natural decorations and candles. Instead of using artificial decorations made from plastic, opt for natural ones made from materials like wood, cotton, glass, metal, or paper…
When it comes to candles, look for ones made from natural ingredients like coconut, soy, or beeswax. There is also a less-known candle material called stearin, which is made of renewable raw materials such as vegetable or animal fat. Another interesting thing about stearin candles is that, according to a small study, the smoke they emit is actually good for the heart.
The problem is that most candles are made with paraffin, a petroleum by-product that releases carcinogenic soot when burned.
Apart from this toxic residue, they also remove microscopic particles from synthetic oils, which, when inhaled, can cause a range of health issues like lethargy, allergies, migraines, and skin irritations to hormonal disruptions when you’re exposed.
You should also watch out for scented products tagged as organic, as this could be purely a greenwashing marketing strategy.
To keep the magic of burning candles alive, opt for the traditional Nordic way and make your own natural candles. Natural candles can be much more expensive than conventional ones, but we can assure you that the investment is worth it.
Alter the way you use unavoidable plastics
One of the most common places we can find plastic is our kitchen. Two popular kitchen appliances are food processors and blenders. Even the best brands don’t always have a glass or stainless steel container option available.
The problem with these hard polycarbonate items is that they almost always contain bisphenols—even the ones labeled as BPA-free.
Even low-dose BPA exposure can lead to cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery heart disease, angina, heart attack, hypertension, and a range of other, especially hormonal balance-related health issues.
Should you ditch these items and never use them again? That’s not going to be necessary. Instead, tweak your behavior when using them.
- Avoid putting hot food in blenders and food processors. Let everything cool down thoroughly first. If the food has to be blended hot, such as soups, or you MUST have your morning bulletproof coffee, use an immersion blender for the job.
- Do not wash these in a dishwasher. The hot water and salts can scratch the plastic, making it easier for the particles to leak into your food later on. Instead, hand wash them in lukewarm soapy water using the soft side of the sponge. Never scrub!
- Minimize using these appliances to grind hard stuff, such as coffee or cocoa beans, ice, and even some nuts and spices. The abrasion can increase the release of compounds from plastics. Use a coffee or spice grinder.
- Do not let the food sit in the container for too long. Empty the containers when you’re done blending or processing, and store the final foods in a glass container.
In addition to being mindful of the products we use, it’s also important to pay attention to the food we eat during the holiday season. Try to choose organic, locally-sourced foods whenever possible, and avoid processed and packaged foods that are likely to contain EDCs.
We wish you a healthy Christmas!
By making conscious and natural choices, we can reduce our exposure to EDCs and protect our health during the holiday season. Let’s be mindful of the impact our actions have on our own health and the health of the planet, and strive to make more environmentally-friendly choices this Christmas.