Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees: 8 Greener Options

BY Micaela Strömbäck Vujica TIMENovember 29, 2013 PRINT

A green Christmas can be as beautiful and fun as any. Here are some eco-friendly tips to keep your Christmas tree truly green.

1. Avoid Artificial Trees

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An artificial Christmas tree. (Shutterstock)

Artificial trees are usually made of petrochemicals, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), metals, and sometimes even lead. They are not fire-resistant, they can’t be recycled, they are used for six to nine years before being shipped off to landfills.

The majority of artificial trees are made in China—80 percent, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade association representing about 700 tree farmers in North America. 

Benefits of a real tree: The benefits of choosing a real tree are that growing the trees provides a habitat for wildlife; the trees can remove dust and pollen from the air, produce oxygen, and absorb carbon dioxide.

For every Christmas tree harvested, one to three seeds are planted, ensuring continuous regeneration.

The average real Christmas tree costs about $40, compared to the average cost of $70 for an artificial tree.

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A Christmas tree farm in Oregon. (Shutterstock)


2. Get an Organic Tree

Pick a christmas tree with a USDA certificate, guaranteeing it was not grown using any pesticides or other dangerous chemicals. Check out an organic tree seller close to you using the Local Harvest locator.

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3. Recycle Your Tree

Search for your local tree recycling options through Earth 911’s local recycling program finder

The United States has more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs, according to the University of Illinois. The trees are often used as mulch, to form erosion barriers, and for other ecological purposes. 

Another option is to plant the tree in your garden or backyard (see more under “Use a Potted Tree” below).


4. Ultimate Convenience—Rent a Tree

Don’t want any fuss with the Christmas tree? Want someone else to do the job? Rent-a-tree companies deliver the tree and pick it up after the holiday. Prices for rental vary from $20 to $200 depending on the size, location, and other factors.

Here are a few examples of rental companies servicing certain areas:
The Living Christmas Co. (Services California)
Rent a Living Christmas Tree  (Services San Francisco South Bay, Santa Cruz, the Monterey Peninsula and Salinas)
Ever Grow Christmas Trees Co.  (Services parts of British Columbia, Canada)


5. Use a Potted Tree, Keep it for Multiple Seasons

Potted Christmas trees have been grown in the ground, then lifted from their roots and placed in pots.

The tree will be yours to grow with your family over the years and over multiple Christmases if you treat it well.

Use a large pot, and you won’t have to re-pot the tree for two to three years. The tree can be kept indoors or outdoors. After the holiday, feel free to plant it in the ground, giving it enough room to grow, or just leave it in the pot.


6. Decorate a Living Tree Outdoors Instead

No need to clean up all the spruce needles if your Christmas tree is outdoors!


7. Go for an Alternative Tree

You can create your own tree, which some people have done by putting a stencil up on the wall. Or, you can buy a variety of alternative Christmas trees made out of wood or many other materials; they come in all shapes and sizes, and bring a unique style to your holiday decor.

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A tree graphic similar to some tree patterns used on walls as an alternative to Christmas trees. (Shutterstock)

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Decorated golden-colored spruce tree. (Shutterstock)

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8. Eco-friendly Decorations

Use LED lights: Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are much cheaper and last longer than conventional lights.

Northeast Utilities energy provider compares the energy cost per month: 12 cents per bulb on a string of traditional holiday lights versus 2 cents per bulb on a string of LED lights. 


*Image of decorating a Christmas tree via Shutterstock

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