There are two important family members most of us forget during the holidays–animals and the environment. So, this year, remember to take them into account while you’re decking the halls by using animal-friendly holiday decor.
Some Traditional Holiday Decorations Can Make Pets Sick!
Many plants associated with the holidays are poisonous to cats and dogs, including mistletoe and holly. Also, while poinsettias are not quite considered poisonous, they can be incredibly irritating if consumed. So, veterinarians urge people to keep holiday plants out of the reach of curious paws.
Also, don’t forget to consider your companion animals when decorating the Christmas tree. Low-hanging ornaments, tinsel, garland, and strings of lights can tempt cats and dogs to chew on them or get tangled up, which could lead to an emergency trip to the vet. Instead, use more paper or fabric ornaments, and keep dangerous ornaments higher up on the tree. Also, consider keeping a fun, distracting toy nearby. If all else fails, keep pets away from the tree when you’re not there to supervise.
Outdoor Décor Can Hurt Wild Animals
Deer love to rub their antlers against trees and can get them tangled up in loosely strung outdoor lights, with no way to get free. Fake garlands contain plastic berries that birds can accidentally ingest. Birds can also get tangled up in decorations suspended with strings or fishing line. If you decide to decorate outside, give wild animals the gift of safe, edible decorations by hanging apples or pinecones covered with peanut butter and birdseed.
The Big Debate: Are Artificial or Real Trees More Eco-Friendly?
The answer depends on who you ask, but the general consensus is that artificial trees, often made of petroleum-based plastics, need to be reused for at least five years in order to offset much of the environmental damage they cause to manufacture and ship. The benefits of real trees are that they are local and keep plastic out of landfills, but they can also be irritating to companion animals who decide to use them as chew toys. And, please don’t feel the need to compete with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. A small tree will allow you to revel in the holiday spirit without contributing to much deforestation. It could be that the best option, aside from no tree at all, is a small synthetic tree you keep for a lifetime. If you do opt for an artificial tree, watch out for flocked or snow-covered varieties that can be toxic to ingest. That holds for animals and kids.
Whichever tree you choose, keep in mind it’s just one small part of the environmental impact your holiday celebration has, while air travel and consumerism are like big lumps of coal in Mother Nature’s stocking.
One fun way to reduce over-gifting, along with the accompanying wrapping paper, is for your family to do a white elephant gift exchange, sometimes known as the Dirty Santa game. Everyone brings just one gift, with a pre-selected price limit. All the gifts are all put in a pile. Then, there are various simple or complex ways to distribute them in an often hilarious exchange. This cuts the gifting down to one per person. An even more sustainable and compassionate holiday event would be for everyone to forsake a physical gift and instead donate to their favorite charity or animal sanctuary in the name of a family member.
Taking animals and the environment into consideration might make your holiday to-do list a tiny bit longer, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Doing our part to take care of the environment is, more than anything, an exercise in shifting perspective. In fact, going out of our way to use animal-friendly holiday decor is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we are part of a big, complicated, beautiful family on this planet and we all deserve to enjoy a safe, happy holiday season.
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Carrie Woods is a writer based in Indiana who comes from a family of journalists.