Happy November 1!  Yes, it’s true – October is actually over and November is here, and that means that many of us will begin to prepare for the holiday season very, very soon.

In our home, one of the first signs that the holiday season has arrived is usually the trimming of the tree.  We love to set aside a day as a family to decorate the tree, hang the stockings and the wreath, and put up any other seasonal decorations around our home.

Though we usually do this sometime after Thanksgiving, I know some families begin even earlier. If you’re already thinking about what kind of tree you will have in your home this year, here are a few things to consider.

Let’s Talk About Artificial Christmas Trees

As an ecological choice, artificial trees are generally not the best way to go.  Here’s why:

  • They won’t biodegrade.
  • Most artificial trees are manufactured with PVC, a plastic that releases toxins.
  • They are usually made overseas and shipped great distances, therefore creating a huge carbon footprint.

Photo by Chris Jeppson

On the other hand, an artificial tree can be re-used for many years.  (Of course, it will eventually end up  in the trash, which leads back to the non-biodegradable issue.)

However, if you already own an artificial tree and don’t want to switch to another option, try to continue to use your artificial tree for as long as possible.

Are Real Christmas Trees Ecological?

When it comes to real trees, there are two categories: cut trees (the most common) and living trees.

Cut trees can be a good choice:

  • If you purchase it from a farm where it was grown specifically to be a Christmas tree, these farms generally practice sustainable farming methods.
  • You can even find organic Christmas tree farms.  This lowers the amount of pesticides you will find on your tree and therefore bring into your home, although Christmas trees are generally a low-pesticide plant, anyway.
  • Buying from a local farm supports your local economy.
  • After the holidays, they can be recycled into mulch and compost.  Most cities offer this service for free.

Photo by Summer

Living trees can also be a good choice, because they can be planted later on.  However, there is some debate about whether the tree can really survive after having been brought indoors during the winter. Apparently this stresses the tree quite a bit, and many don’t make it.

Are There Other Options?

Perhaps you’re allergic to real Christmas trees, or there is some other reason that you don’t feel a real tree is right for you and your family.  Are there other options besides PVC and landfills?

This is when it’s time to get creative.  Here are a few non-traditional ideas for eco-friendly trees:

  • If you have a living Christmas tree growing outside in your yard, consider decorating this tree instead of bringing one into your home.  You may not be able to stack gifts beneath it, but you could use decorations such as cranberries and popcorn on strings, and invite the neighbors over for hot cider and carols around the tree.  It’s a great way to build community and use the resources you already have.
  • Gather sticks and branches to create a “tree” in a large vase.  Use twine, floral wire, and/or ribbons to hold the branches and sticks together and decorate.  This is a good project for children to help with, and again makes use of available resources.
  • Make a repurposed tree from other materials, such as fabric, cans, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and anything else that might work.  Put your artsy hat on and have fun with it.

Photo by Jennifer Donley

Have you ever had an unconventional Christmas tree?  Do you usually have a real or artificial tree?  What has influenced your choice?