Christmas trees are one of the most enjoyable traditions of the holiday season, and there are lots of easy ways to go green with your Christmas tree: from using living potted Christmas trees, to recycled cardboard trees, to buying LED Xmas lights. After weighing the choices every December for years, and going on my own personal quest to have the greenest Christmas tree ever, here are the most eco-friendly tips I can offer on greening your holiday tree:
1. AIM FOR A LIVING TREE IF YOU CAN
Living trees produce oxygen and suck up carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate global warming. They also last for years (if you can keep them alive), and you don’t have to kill a tree in order to decorate your house for a week but still get that ‘cut tree’ look and smell. The downside to live Xmas trees is that they are usually pretty small, and its hard to keep many varieties alive indoors when they’ve been inside in a heated environment for more than 10 days.
I’ve tried the living Christmas tree thing for years and, for many years, always seem to manage to kill my little coniferous friend by mid January. Apparently I didn’t know back then what I know now: If you get a living douglas fir or any sort of pine tree, you can only keep it in the house for about a week before it will start to die due to the change in temperature. If you get one of these guys, you HAVE to bring it outside after about 10 days. They can deal with cold weather just fine – just make sure their containers have ample drainage for snow (sadly most containers that your tree will be sold in do not contain drainage). If you are considering replanting a potted Christmas tree, read up on these tips on how to do it right..
If you’re lazy, go for a Rosemary tree.
This year I got a Rosemary tree – which is relatively easy to grow indoors. You can find these cute little trees in Whole Foods. They smell great, can thrive indoors, can easily be decorated with lights and ornaments, and produce yummy herbs for cooking. What more could you ask for? Just be warned, they won’t stay in Christmas tree shape as they grow. You’ll also need to read up on how to properly care for Rosemary.
There’s nothing sadder than seeing a cut pine Xmas tree go completely to waste on the side of the road because the owner couldn’t be bothered to recycle it. There are a million things that can be done with cut trees. A simple phone call to Earth911 will help you figure out how and where to recycle your cut Xmas tree.
Green bristly fake Christmas trees are almost always made in China with loads of nasty chemicals (including lead!) that you absolutely don’t want in your house. If you like the idea of having an artificial tree that can stuffed in the closet and reused year after year, skip the plastic made-in-china-with-lead-version, and go for something eco-friendly and unique such as the cardboard tree, a flat-pack plywood tree, or Buro North’s beautiful ply CNC-milled tree.
LED Christmas lights consume 90% less energy than incandescent lights, they’re made with less toxic chemicals, the bulbs never die, so there is no reason not to switch to LED Xmas lights at this point. Unfortunately some brands of LED lights are flickery with off-putting blue-hued light, so look for ‘Warm White’ LED lights to imitate that warm tungsten glow. I found some warm white LED Christmas lights at IKEA which have a really beautiful tone of light, unique shapes, and a very pleasing (non flickery) glow. I recommend them highly.