Creative, Less Toxic, and Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor Ideas

The ideas and photos I am sharing are not designed specifically for people with MCS/ES, but they can be easily adapted to meet our needs.

The majority of people who celebrate Christmas do it with decorations, parties, and gifts, perhaps  with a visit to church, if possible. For people with MCS/ES, all of these traditions, as currently practiced, can be seriously problematic, if not downright impossible.

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Most people use fragrance and other products which can completely disable some of us due to the toxic chemicals they contain. Fragrance-free social gatherings are still the rare exception, leading to social isolation for far too many of us.

There are toxic chemicals in so many everyday products and materials, that finding new things that are safe to bring into the home can often be an exercise in futility for people with MCS/ES (or anyone who wants or needs to avoid toxic exposures) and while things are slowly changing, truly non-toxic things are still hard to find, even basic necessities can require great effort and time to sufficiently remove any removable chemicals.

Fresh cut trees are often not tolerated due to pesticide residues, molds, or terpenes. Not to mention the issue of cutting down trees to throw out a few weeks later (oops, I mentioned it). Artificial trees are made from toxic petroleum based materials which, in addition to polluting the air and the environment during their life-cycle, also require added storage space for over 11 months of the year.

Heretic that I am (perhaps being forced into isolation for so long has contributed to this) I personally don’t believe we need a “Christmas” tree (real or artificial) to be able to celebrate Christmas, which was after all, originally about celebrating Christ…

Back to now, there are too many discouraging and exhausting challenges to list and link here, so many that one may wonder: why do we even bother? Well, traditions and habits run deep, and wanting to have a connection with others, a connection that holidays usually create, is a hard habit to break…

So, with all that out of the way, how to safely decorate?

The good news is, that often we can find things we already have to create a feel-good holiday environment that won’t leave us feeling left out. We may only be able to share it via skype, but that’s another story…

If you do tolerate trees and plants, and really want an evergreen, you can buy a potted tree that can be planted in the yard next year. If you already have potted plants, you can decorate them! I used to decorate the large indoor Hibiscus tree I had. At other times I found dead branches of varying sizes and stuck those in a pot to decorate.

In all likelihood, we have any number of older things lying around that are already safe for us, perhaps having off-gassed sufficiently if off-gassing was needed. With a bit of creative thinking, we can re-purpose everyday objects to delightfully re-create the function of trees

What follows are inspirational photos I found on the web in the last couple of years, mostly shared on fb without the original source credited, so  my gratitude and  my apologies go out to all the creative people out there who created these works of art and inspiration.

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And here are some neat crafty ornament ideas you can make from things you might already have lying around (not all are no-impact or non-toxic, although several are)

10 Natural ornaments for kids and you to make

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If you have any favorite links with non-toxic or less toxic holiday decorating ideas for Christmas and for other traditions, please share them in the comments.

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Respect life.

We are all in this together.

22 responses to “Creative, Less Toxic, and Eco-Friendly Christmas Decor Ideas

  1. I love all these ideas! So pretty and creative! I especially like the wood branches and lights, the ladders with lights, the one with berries, and the one with shelves that looks like an altar. Oh, and I love the Coexist meme, of course. :-)
    And not to be Lyme All the Time, but there’s yet another reason to be careful of real trees, especially in endemic areas: Sometimes deer rub against trees before they’re brought to Christmas tree lots, and the ticks end up on the trees.

    • Thank you… and eegads re ticks on trees! I thought I introduced enough problems in the intro!
      So much to be aware of these days… And once we are, in many ways, life becomes so much simpler… :D

  2. Beautiful ideas!!! One year, the kids made a little paper tree just for some lights, and we hung ornaments on the walls and on the other strings of lights near the ceiling.

  3. Does anyone know of any brands of string lights that don’t reek of PVC fumes?

  4. Lovely ideas. I always struggled with the idea of a real tree. I don’t have one anymore because of my MCS but when I did I chose a tree farm where the trees are grown specifically for Christmas trees and more planted each year to replace those cut. Only a few were cut so none went to waste if not bought. The tree farm income feeds multiple families for the year. My city collects the trees and mulches them and gives the mulch away for free or in my case I drag the tree to the woods and give the critters some place to hang out for the winter. I imagine in a large city all those trees are a difficulty to deal with after the holidays. My biggest holiday decorating issue are all the toxic scented candles even when not being burned. Great info as always. :D

    • I have heard so many people say they can’t even buy food anymore without getting sick for days from all the scented brooms, pine cones and candles in grocery stores now!

      I haven’t been able to eat food (even if delivered) from stores that sell fragranced stuff because the food all tastes like the fragrances, unless it’s in glass or foil, but even then, I have to get the food out of the package before I can bring it inside safely!

      We need fragrance and chemical free supply chains!

      Back to trees, yes, there are even organic tree farms now, and yes, some of them get mulched or put in yards or elsewhere for wildlife habitat, but the majority are wasted from what I’ve heard, as are all the ones with tinsel, which can’t be mulched…

      Growing Christmas trees is one way to earn a living, but there are others too…
      And, there are other kinds of trees to grow, etc etc…(the economy is a subject I don’t have enough language to discuss, but I can introduce the idea that “just because we’re doing it this way now, doesn’t mean this is the way we have to do it in the future” ;-) )

      Speaking of which, Prince Ea (who I had never heard of before Roshi Joan Halifax shared this) posted a video recently
      (the eff word is in it 3 times in 3 minutes, but not in anger, and it isn’t really even about Ferguson, it’s about life, and like he says, some people aren’t going to understand what he’s saying, and because of that I add, this is exactly why we need policy changes, for the people who need help getting out of holes that policies dig in the first place…
      Anyway, I think it’s a video you’d like Colleen <3

  5. LOVE the article Linda and even though i thankfully do not suffer with MCS/ES i am, in fact one of those persons who indeed wants and feels the need to avoid toxic exposures. as usual you insight is always spot on and the creative photos you’ve found include some fabulous ideas. i especially love the decorated hanging branches and the twig/stick wall tree. thank you again for your posts <3

    • Thank you JoAnne!

      I hope you are having fun coming up with more unique and creative ways to decorate for the holidays!

    • JoAnne, I wish I had been like you, understanding toxins and the need to avoid BEFORE I got MCS!! Although it was hidden mold that eventually put me over the top, I wonder if I would not have gotten so sick if I had been toxin-free. I’m so glad you get the whole toxin thing!!! :)

  6. Those are beautiful ideas! Some years we have waited to do our main hedge/tree trimming til right before Xmas, then we stick some of the largest branches in a bucket of sand and decorate. It’s fun but I do not have the
    aesthetic sense to make our DIY tree look like those lovely images you included. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I wish people could include photos in the comments here :-)

      Had I been more together/less brain fogged, I would have looked for some images that didn’t require any aesthetic sense but shone brightly from the love put into making them, as well as some that could be bought if one had the financial resources and storage space. These were just ones that were shared and that I have saved…

      I just remembered a couple that I didn’t include (my photo albums are not organized very well), the one made from books, and one made from bottles.

  7. Those sound like cool ideas!
    Hanukkah-wise, Sharon W. used to have an MCS-safe electric menorah. I looked for a picture of it on her old blog but couldn’t find one. Kwanzaa also involves candles.
    Love the video! Go Prince Ea! Well said.

    • There are nice electric/battery operated LED candles now :-), but some of them are scented too:/

      I found the quote that I think needs to go with Prince Ea’s thoughts (why I also mentioned policy)

      “Although in principle we have freedom of choice, without awareness and consciousness it’s not meaningful to speak about freedom of choice.”
      ~ Gabor Maté

  8. I like the ideas. They are also great for anyone who has limited space and budget.

  9. Prince Ea tells it true. Love it. I’ve got more to say but I spent the day sorting in my garage so that is all my muddled brain can handle. :D

    • A sorted garage is sometimes worth a muddled brain, briefly (not that we should have to make those kinds of toxic exposure cost-benefit analysises for daily living). Hope you clear up soon <3

  10. THanks for this. We have a helpsheet called ‘Gifts and Celebrations for MCS and EHS’ which gives ideas. Available for support group members from We’re going to be printing a page of alternative Christmas Tree ideas for MCS in our winter magazine too. x

    • Good to know Nicki.
      Do people have to become paying members to join the support group or get the magazine, or are they available for free?

  11. Here’s a site with an assortment of metal trees

    (note that to be MCS safe, metal should be cleaned with something like TSP to remove the manufacturing oils, but are usually good to go after that… The ones with lights could be problematic if the lights are in plastic, but should be fine if they are the wire fairy lights…

    Plastic plugs can be covered with foil or foil tape (carefully) to encase any parts that might be offgassing.

  12. Pingback: Holiday Canaries | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

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