If your household celebrates Christmas, chances are you put a Christmas tree up in your home. Annually, around 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. This year, we’re expected to spend over $6 billion on real and artificial Christmas trees. Would you consider a low-cost, sustainable, alternative Christmas tree this year?
It’s hard to deny the joy and beauty a twinkling Christmas tree can bring. But it’s important to remember that artificial trees are made from fossil fuel-derived plastics and most of them travel long distances from factories across the globe. Live Christmas trees are often sprayed with chemical pesticides that are bad for workers and the environment. And residues of those chemicals in your tree can be toxic to the people and pets in your home. (Still, if you’re trying to decide between a real or artificial tree, a live, native, and organic tree is the way to go.)
But there’s another way to reap the joy and beauty of a Christmas tree without environmental harm. Check out these fun, funky Christmas tree alternatives that you can make with materials you already have at home.
1. Craft a tree out of string
Who says a Christmas tree has to have pine needles and a star on top? Grab the garden twine you use to stake the tomatoes or yarn from your knitting basket and craft a beautiful string Christmas tree that will fit almost anywhere. This is a great option for people who want to add a tree to a small space.
2. Make a recyclable cardboard tree
Before you put that cardboard box in the recycling bin, extend its life by upcycling it into an alternative Christmas tree. The best thing about a cardboard Christmas tree is that the possibilities for hand-drawn decorations are endless. You can easily hang real ornaments on it, too.
3. Build a book tree
Are you a book lover with a pile of novels beside your bed? Turn your favorite hobby into your favorite holiday decoration by building a Christmas tree out of books. There’s no need to purchase anything new to make this alternative Christmas tree; just raid your bookshelves and start stacking.
4. Create a tree from twigs
Bring the outdoors in by creating an alternative Christmas tree from twigs you gather from your yard or a local park. While you’re foraging for the materials to make your tree, grab some pinecones and holly to complete your rustic holiday look.
5. Decorate your houseplants
Are you the kind of person who has a monstera in a sunny corner and a philodendron creeping across your shelves? Turn your favorite houseplant into a Christmas tree by wrapping it with twinkly lights or adorning it with popcorn garlands. This alternative tree option may feel closest to a traditional Christmas tree since your houseplants are alive and green.
We know that the type of Christmas tree you pick won’t solve the climate crisis. As a society, we urgently need to phase out fossil fuels, transform industrial agriculture, and hold polluting corporations accountable. But individually, we can celebrate the holiday season in ways that reflect the sustainable, healthy future we want. This year, instead of wrestling with the decision of whether to buy a live tree or an artificial one, choose an alternative, creative and waste-free Christmas tree instead.
About the Author
Kelley Dennings has 20 years of experience working in waste prevention and leads the Center for Biological Diversity’s Simplify the Holidays campaign.
Feature image by monicore, Pixabay. This article was originally published on December 7, 2021