Did you notice that this year everyone is glossing over Halloween and skipping right to Christmas? The holidays seem to come earlier and earlier each year.
So I’m guessing you are gearing up for the impending celebrations and decorations while also trying to make the most eco-friendly choices.
And one of those choices is searching for the most eco-friendly Christmas tree.
The real Christmas tree vs artificial Christmas tree debate can get very heated because our memories and family traditions are entangled within their branches.
To make the most eco-friendly decision about which Christmas tree to invest in this year we need to go through all the details.
Why do we decorate Christmas Trees?
The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come.
Real Christmas Trees:
Real Christmas trees are grown on farms for that purpose – to become Christmas trees.
They’re not cut down from forests as some people think – which would immediately make them a bad choice for the environment.
In the United States Christmas trees are primarily grown in the mountainous areas of Oregon and North Carolina. And it’s big business for these states and also a long game strategy.
Some Christmas trees can take up to 10 years to grow so farmers regularly care for the trees year after year before they’re chopped down by a flannel-shirt wearing family to beautify their living room for the holiday.
Is it environmentally friendly to have a Christmas tree?
The answer is both yes and no.
Obviously, the most eco-friendly Christmas tree is the Christmas tree you don’t buy.
But that’s not an option for a lot of people.
The second eco-friendly Christmas tree choice is a live tree with an attached root ball.
You would care for this live tree during the holiday inside your home and then plant it outside or continue caring for it in its pot. And ideally, bring it inside the following year for the holidays.
The next best option is to purchase a Christmas tree from a nearby local farm and compost the remains after the holiday.
For every Christmas tree that is cut down, many more are planted in its place which makes having a live tree more sustainable.
Best Choice: Don’t have a tree
Second Choice: Live tree with a rootball
Third Choice: A nearby, local tree from a tree farm
For a long time, I thought artificial trees were the eco-friendly option because they can be reused over and over.
However, artificial trees are comprised of plastic and metal; two components that require a lot of resources to produce.
And the majority of artificial trees are manufactured overseas and endure a long and arduous journey to the United States.
Is there any scenario when an artificial tree could be the more eco-friendly option?
I’m glad you asked because yes! Despite the excessive energy and resources needed to produce an artificial tree, it can technically be used over and over.
If you already have an artificial tree, keep using it! Keep using it until it can’t be used anymore to get the full life out of the tree.
We all know that one of the best ways to be sustainable is to use what you have until you can’t anymore.
And if that means using your artificial tree for the next 20 years, then so be it.
If you do not have an artificial tree yet and the idea of cutting down a 10-year-old tree each year makes your heart hurt, then buy an artificial tree and commit to using it for 20 years or more.
Best Choice: Commit to using an artificial tree until it falls apart.
Worst Choice: Buying a new artificial tree over and over.
How can we be environmentally friendly for Christmas?
Did you know you don’t have to choose between a real tree or an artificial tree?
Listen to this – you can celebrate the season with whatever items you choose.
No law says a tree must be present and decorated for the holidays to commence.
My partner and I have been together for nearly 10 years and have never had an artificial or real tree. When we had our daughter 5 years ago I couldn’t wrap my head around taking care of something new – whether it was a live tree or artificial.
So we’ve had a felt tree for the past 5 years. Do you think I’m a Scrooge yet? Hear me out!
5 years ago I cut out a large piece of green felt in the shape of a Christmas tree.
Then I designed ornaments, also out of felt that we could hang on the tree. So here’s what we do: each year after Thanksgiving I bring out the felt tree and hang it up on a wall in our living room.
Then as a family, we create new felt ornaments and/or improve upon last year’s ornaments and hang them up on the felt tree.
One of the best parts of the felt tree is the kids can decorate the tree over and over by rearranging the felt ornaments. On Christmas morning we line the kids’ gifts up against the felt tree wall and celebrate Christmas.
When New Year’s arrives I take down the felt tree quickly and pack it away until next year.
I challenge you to think of another way to celebrate without a tree if a Christmas tree is not a commitment you’re willing to make right now.
Here are 10 Christmas Tree alternatives:
Potted Evergreen or any small indoor tree
Potted Rosemary Tree
So to make the best choice, think of what will happen to your tree when the season is over and commit to the most eco-friendly disposal.
Ideally, you would either replant the tree, compost it, or reuse it for next year. As long as you avoid flat out adding to the landfill I think your choice will be an educated one. What tree are you choosing this year? Let me know down below in the comments!