-An acre of living Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen for 18 people.

-Eighty percent of artificial trees are manufactured in China, and most are made with PVC and other plastics, which do not biodegrade and which contain enough lead to legally require a warning label.

While there isn’t much that says Christmas like a decked out tree, every year we are saddened by the waste and loss of life that goes into the usual cut-down-and-dress-up trees that most people buy from the local parking lot. Fortunately, there are kinder and greener options for Christmas trees that really aren’t too difficult to implement at all, if you are just willing to rethink antiquated traditions and realize that the holiday spirit doesn’t need to mean going to the tree lot to chop down a tree. Every year we are frustrated to hear the same old same old ‘plastic tree’ versus ‘cut tree” debate – when the most environmentally friendly option by far is simply to get a living tree instead.

dead christmas trees

With a living Christmas tree, not only do you skip the sad annual tree-killing bit, but you also skip out on the consumerist production and disposal that is involved in both plastic and cut trees. Most importantly, however, you can rest easy knowing that your live tree will be producing oxygen and filtering carbon dioxide to make the world a better place.

Think about how long it takes your beautiful 12 foot cut pine tree to reach its mature state – only to go spend 3 weeks in your living room turning brown before it gets tossed in the dump. The whole industry of cut trees is pretty sad – even considering that those trees were grown specifically to be Christmas trees. Your best bets for truly green trees include renting or buying living trees, and repotting after the fact.

If you’re a last-minute tree shopper, consider that living replantable Christmas trees have significant environmental benefits, producing oxygen and absorbing CO2, with the possibility of living on after the holiday festivities. If you have a living potted Christmas tree, you can easily plant that little guy in your yard or donate it to Friends of the Urban Forestto be planted a local area in need of some flora.

While they’re not as common, Rent-a-Tree programs are gaining some momentum, a big one gaining attention in San Francisco 2 years ago. The programs provide a variety of tree species to families for the holiday season which can be strung with popcorn and tinsel just like their disposable cousins, but come early January, the city will pick them up and plant them in a neighborhood that needs some greening. The Original Living Christmas Tree Company in Oregon has been providing a rental Xmas tree service for some time. It’s not the cheapest route, but it definitely represents the spirit of giving that characterizes this season.

If you’ve bought a cut tree, consider your post-holiday recycling options. The image of the shriveled Charlie Brown tree comes to mind, when the tree that took at least 10 years to cultivate and grow has seen its week of holiday sparkle and is now starting to lose its glimmer. Treecycling is your best bet for recycling your tenanbaums, and have peace of mind in the new year that its branches will be used to provide mulch, landscaping, or erosion prevention for new landscapes.

For treecycling locations near you, look here >

If you want something cheaper and smaller, try a DIY tree. The Yule Tree-To-Be Kit provides you with seeds to grow your own Noble Fir. This is a great idea for marking an important first (first Xmas together, baby’s first Xmas, etc.), and it grows in size and meaning as the years pass.

What are your thoughts for the greenest way to do the tannenbaum tradition?