Is there such a thing as a green Christmas tree? Can you still be kind to the earth while chopping down a piece of it to bring into your home? The question of the artificial vs. the live Christmas tree has sparked more heated online debate than Freddy vs. Jason. Lately the green pendulum has swung to the side of the traditionalists. Perhaps the most green choice is no Christmas tree at all, but this is also the least fun choice, especially if you have kids. So how do you stand by your green values without being called a Scrooge? Read on for tips on making eco-conscious choices no matter what side of the tree debate you fall on.
Live Christmas Trees
If you can’t imagine a Christmas without a live tree in your family room, you can still do it in a green way. As long as Christmas tree farms are practicing organic procedures, then cutting down a tree from a sustainable farm is actually earth-friendly. Trees are continually replenished and provide a habitat for animals. Besides, wouldn’t you rather see a successful green Christmas tree farm on the side of the road than the same land be developed into an unsightly shopping center? For a list of organic Christmas tree farms click here or check with your local nursery or garden center. If you get a pre-cut Christmas tree from a hardware store, chances are it’s been farmed using pesticides and shipped on a truck- not a very green option.
What do you do with the Christmas tree when the holiday is over? Most towns now have a recycling program for Christmas trees and will pick it up for free. Recycled trees are turned into mulch or used on waterfronts for shoreline stabilization. For a list of recycling centers in your town, visit Earth911. Or you can submerge the tree yourself into a lake or pond which will provide a fish habitat. And since you bought an organic tree, there’s no need to worry about chemicals being released into the atmosphere. Or secure it in your own back yard and hang bird feeders from it. When spring comes it will be brittle enough that you can turn it into mulch yourself for use in your landscaping.
An even more green option that is gaining in popularity is purchasing a potted, living Christmas tree with the roots still attached which can then be planted after the holidays. Again, you can check with your local nursery for information on where to find a potted tree near you. If you don’t want to plant the tree in your own yard, you can donate it to your town, school or church. Or you could sell it to a local landscaper. There are specific care instructions for having a potted Christmas tree, such as they can only be indoors for a small period of time. Most experts say 7-10 days so if you like to have your tree longer than that you’ll need to keep it on the porch, which can be just as festive. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company provides potted trees to residents of Portland, Oregon. They have some great tips on doing it yourself which you can check out here.
Green Christmas Tree Alternatives
There are many do-it-yourself ideas for Christmas tree alternatives. Everything from recycled green bottle Christmas trees to stringing lights around a wooden step ladder. These are perfect options for the apartment dweller or if you’re going out of town for the holidays. A favorite D-I-Y green alternative is to grab a few twigs or a small fallen branch from the woods, stick it in a pot, hang a red glass bulb from it and you have the ultimate Charlie Brown Christmas tree. You can also decorate a tree in your yard as your designated Christmas tree. Here are some other green options for your holiday decorating.
Possibilitree was started by an architect who had tired of the hassle of a cut Christmas tree. So he designed an attractive green alternative. Each tree is handmade in the United States by skilled woodworkers. A family-run business, Possibilitree strives to create their trees from naturally fallen trees whenever possible. They can be used year after year, are lightweight, portable and easy to store and assemble. They have an architectural modern look to them. Of course you wouldn’t want to put any lighted candles near them, but you can light them with LED spotlights or LED ornaments. You can get the 3 foot tabletop version for $195.00 or the 6 foot suspended tree that hovers 18 inches above the floor so you can still put presents “under” the tree for $350.00.
Take a look at the Possibilitree here.
These driftwood trees by Fawbush & Schulz are made from shoreline driftwood and add a natural earthy atmosphere to your holiday table. They come in 2 sizes: 24″ high or 31″ high. At $179.00 and $405.00 respectively, they are more pricey than your other green options. However, they could be used year round and decorated for every holiday. These are nice if you’re looking for more of a “winter” tree than a Christmas tree.
You can get a driftwood tree at Fawbush & Schulz.
Rosemary Christmas Topiary
For a more economical green Christmas tree, try a Rosemary bush. This topiary has been trimmed to a Christmas tree shape. Just add some ribbon, ornaments, and a few LED mini lights. Toss a festive blanket around the bottom and you’ll have your very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Rosemary adds a nice scent to the home and you can even snip off a few ends now and then for cooking.
You can order this Rosemary Christmas Topiary from Amazon for $27.50.
Norfolk Island Pine – The Indoor Christmas Tree
The Norfolk Island Pine is another houseplant that would make an economical green Christmas tree. These trees grow to a height of 80 feet in their natural habitat, but will keep at a controlled size when indoors. Again, wrap some LED mini lights around it and you’ll have an exotic Christmas tree.
Artificial Christmas Trees
Artificial Christmas trees have recently undergone bad press: most are imported from China and are made of PVC that may or may not contain lead. The best option for an artificial tree is to get one made in the United States. The benefits of artificial trees are that they are reusable and therefore more economical in the long run. They carry less of a fire hazard than live trees, but remember, they’re flame retardant, not fire-proof. Mountain King has been manufacturing artificial Christmas trees in the U.S. for over 75 years. Their trees are made of 100% recycled lead-free PVC. We like the recycled, lead-free part, but the downside is the use of PVC which is a non-renewable plastic. As long as artificial trees are made with these non-biodegradable plastics, they won’t be the best choice for a green tree. Only get an artificial tree if you’re confident you want to keep one for a lifetime, perhaps even pass it down to your kids. The Mountain King brand is a high quality choice and you can purchase one here.
The first artificial Christmas tree was made by the Germans in the 1800s. Due to widespread deforestation in Germany, the German people were forced to come up with an alternative to live Christmas trees. Since feathers from various birds were readily available, they made tabletop Christmas trees from them. This feather tree is a 27″ lightweight tabletop model, handmade and flame retardant. It has been featured on HGTV and the Today Show. Another good source for traditional style German green feather trees is Christmas Traditions. Or if you’re feeling crafty, you can make your own here.
The 27″ Tabletop Feather Christmas tree sells for $53.99 on Amazon.
Aluminum Christmas Tree
Hey Daddy-O, how about a 50s Christmas? Aluminum Christmas trees were popular from the late 1950s through the 60s until the 1970 Charlie Brown Christmas special knocked them off their pedestal, but Lucy may have been thinking green after all. Aluminum trees are recyclable. This retro aluminum Christmas tree from Yuletide Expressions is made in the United States of 100% safe and renewable materials, including the stand and base. They come in classic or slimline styles ranging in price from $225.00 to $830.00 with a size range from 4 feet to 9 feet tall.
Visit Yuletide Expressions here.