7 Alternative Christmas Trees for a Green Christmas


So you gave to Greenpeace this year… but what are using for your Christmas Tree?

Maybe you spend your entire year painstakingly recycling every piece of paper, plastic, aluminum, or tin piece of material you come in contact with even if it means shoving it in your purse until you find a recycling bin. But then comes the end of the year and you find yourself throwing all your green sensibilities out the window for the sake of our most beloved tradition – the yearly Christmas tree. Perhaps you hold dear those childhood memories of trudging through a snowy tree farm with your dad in search of that perfectly-shaped tree, and standing dutifully by as he sawed it down and drug it to the car. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a real pine tree in the living room!

Unfortunately, with over 7 billion people on the planet today, we can’t afford to live as previous generations did. We have to change the way we do things so that future generations will inherit a world as green as the one from our childhood memories. This includes changing the way we decorate our homes at Christmas. Using a natural or artificial Christmas tree in your home is harming the environment, and here’s why:


Why Traditional Christmas Trees are Anything but Green

1. Waste of Land: Christmas tree farms take up valuable land where more productive crops could be grown, or a wild space could exist. In North America alone there are an estimated 20,000 Christmas tree farms growing trees on over 1 million acres. That is a lot of land and energy dedicated to producing something that has no real value to us other than giving us a place to hang our ornaments for a few weeks! Really, with 870 million undernourished humans in the world, I’m sure we can find something better to do with that land.

2. Trash, Trash, and more Trash! 30 million Christmas trees are tossed into landfills each year despite efforts to increase recycling, composting, and mulching. 

3. Deforestation: If you cut a wild tree, you are contributing to loss of habitat, an increase in carbon monoxide in the atmosphere, erosion, and degradation of our wild spaces.

4. Greenhouse Gas Hog: Artificial trees are no kinder to the environment: If you take into account the manufacture, shipping distance, and length of life of an artificial tree – coupled with the fact that it can’t be recycled – an artificial tree is more harmful to the environment and will produce 40% more greenhouse gases than a natural tree. 

5. Toxin Alert! Artificial Christmas trees are a danger to our health, and can be especially dangerous to children – this is because the materials they are made from are toxic, and include lead. As your artificial tree begins to age – after about the ninth year – more toxic lead will be released into the air of your home. Why would you risk exposing your family to potentially deadly toxic chemicals? 


So what can you do instead? Make an alternative Christmas Tree!

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:


1. The Reforestation Tree

Use a living, potted pine tree as your Christmas tree this year! You won’t have to deal with disposing of it after the holidays, and the fresh pine smell (and extra O2) will keep your holidays extra festive. Afterwards, you can plant your tree outside your home, or donate it to be planted elsewhere. You can source a potted Christmas tree your local greenhouse, or even have one delivered to your home through services such as this one. 


Potted pine trees can be a beautiful, living addition to your Christmas. Image originally seen here


2. The Japanese Garden

Miniature Evergreens or bonsai trees make cute and elegant Christmas trees, especially if your space is limited. You can get one here, or check with your local nursery.


The bonsai Christmas Tree – image originally seen here.


3. The Contractor Tree

Make an alternative Christmas tree out of a ladder, which is the perfect tree shape when unfolded, and can be easily covered in lights, garlands, and ornaments.


I love this ladder tree – originally seen here.


4. Zero Impact Tree

Build a Christmas tree shape out of materials you have around the house – possibilities include egg cartons, books, boxes, glass ornaments, flower pots, pillows, or something salvaged or repurposed – almost anything can be stacked into a conical shape and covered in festive decorations!


This alternative tree is fun for the kids too! Save your egg cartons all year and have a painting party with the little ones. Origin: unknown


5. The Gatherer

Take a nature walk and get inspired by what you see. Try making an elegant branch tree from sticks and twigs you find outside. You can leave the branches their natural color, or try painting them white for a wintry feel. Secure them in a pot with rocks and you have the perfect place to hang ornaments. Or collect a bag full of pinecones and stack them into a tree shape inside a festive pot, or even secure a few found branches to the wall and decorate. Let nature inspire you!


I love the simplicity of this one! (source: unknown)


There is something so elegant and wintry about this one! (source: unknown)


This tree would be a perfect place to showcase the little treasures you and your kids find on your nature walks. Image originally seen here.


6. The 2-D Tree

Go 2-D! Use an empty wall as your blank canvas. You can adhere a wall decal, attach lights, tack some string, or even use picture frames and other odds and ends to make a Christmas tree shape right on your wall.

alternative_christmas_tree_decal alternative_christmas_tree_lights alternative_christmas_tree_ornaments

7. The Gardener

For those who love to garden, you may have a few tomato cages gathering dust in your shed. Why not pull one out and use it as a base for an alternative christmas tree! Just secure it in a large pot or bucket, and wrap it with festive decorations such as lights, garland, and ornaments!


There are so many ways you can decorate tomato cages for the holidays! Image source and tutorial here.


“But I’ll miss that fresh scent of pine!” you say. Well, you don’t need to cut down a WHOLE pine tree to get that Christmas-fresh scent in your house. Just make or buy a fresh pine wreath or garland for inside your home and your Christmas will be complete. Top it off with a scented pine candle or holiday-scented aromatherapy infuser, and you’re ready for a jolly season.

What innovative alternative Christmas trees have you seen? Feel free to share them in the comments below, we are always looking for holiday inspiration!

Enjoy the Holidays!

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