The holidays wouldn’t be the same without a tree to decorate with lights, garlands, ornaments, and a star for the top. But, in the era of climate change, holiday trees have become a bone of contention. Although tree farms immediately replant and grow new trees, we can’t ignore the transportation and carbon footprint of getting a tree from points A to B. Artificial trees are traditionally made from steel and PVC plastic, making recycling challenging. So what is an eco-friendly holiday elf to do?
Deck The Houseplants
Houseplants make great holiday trees and year-long additions to the indoor garden, filling the space where the traditional Christmas tree once stood.
From the large weeping fig or majesty palm to the smaller rosemary plant, these eco-friendly choices can be decorated and lit up to create holiday magic!
The most popular choice is the Norfolk Pine. Even though it’s a tropical houseplant (araucaria heterophylla) and related to the monkey puzzle tree, its pine-looking branches give it the look of a traditional holiday tree.
Place it in a sunny location, water it every one or two weeks, and it will be happy sitting in a bright corner of the house all year. Then, you can take it outside to a shady spot on the patio or front porch in the summer. Christmas in July? Yes, please!
If you have fir, pine, or spruce in your yard, this is a great time to give it a prune and repurpose the branches.
Put the branches in a large bucket or container of water, and this eco-friendly alternative should last through the season. Of course, the size of the tree you build will depend on the branches you gather.
For urban dwellers without giant evergreens close at hand, go to the tree lot. Many sellers cut the bottom branches from the trees to make them look more cylindrical and pleasing to the consumer.
Tree lots are often more than happy to give these discards away for free instead of deposing them. It may take digging through the pile to find the most aesthetically pleasing ones, but it’s well worth the effort.
At the end of the season, they can be repurposed as extra cover for the perennial garden or, if stripped of needles, used to create hügelkultur containers for the spring.
Wooden Stick Tree
This is an eco-friendly DIY project in which the whole family can get involved.
A wooden holiday tree made from untreated wood is an excellent alternative to the traditional holiday evergreen. It can be small or large, stand on its own, or be strung together and hung on a hook from the wall and adorned with ornaments.
Plan and start collecting next time you walk in the woods, along a river, or to the beach. It’s a great way to get the kids into the holiday spirit and nature by encouraging them to help choose and collect the sticks to make the tree.
More Traditional Options
Other great ideas include potted conifers or thrifting an old artificial tree from a charity shop.
If going the traditional route and buying a cut tree, the David Suzuki Foundation suggests buying local from tree lots that donate to community causes and from tree farms that don’t use pesticides or herbicides.
In Canada, many provinces keep the areas around their hydro lines clear. So apply for a permit to cut down your tree from these areas. But choose a tree a safe distance from the electrical lines.