The holidays are fast approaching and, with it, the bustle of wrapping presents, baking treats and decorating the Christmas tree. While the tradition of harvesting a tree from the forest (or tree farm) is a plastic-free endeavor that relies on a renewable resource, that doesn’t mean it’s void of environmental consequences. 

Trees are one of the many gifts the planet gives us everyday of the year, but cutting down live trees for the benefit of enhanced home décor for a few weeks is the equivalent of single-use products. Even if you’re okay with the balance of growing and using a fresh tree, you might not have space for one in your home. Whatever your reasons for questioning a Christmas tree as the central element of your holiday celebration, consider Mother Nature while evaluating the alternatives.

Related: Need eco-friendly holiday gifts for friends? We’ve got you covered.

A Christmas tree in the corner of a living room beside a TV turned on

Artificial tree

In short, we don’t recommend them. Nearly all artificial trees are made from petroleum-based plastic. They bring with them a massive carbon footprint that continues down the road when they lie in a landfill without decomposing. If you do choose to go artificial, look for a tree made from recycled materials. At least this type diverts plastic from a premature landfill dump by upcycling.

Wood pallet tree

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll see wood pallets all over town. From alleys to online postings, pallets are a ubiquitous part of the shipping process. You can upcycle a pallet into a tree in two ways. The first is to place the pallet against the wall and paint a tree onto the boards. You can decorate with fabric bows or go with natural materials like pine cones. The second method is a bit more comprehensive. Use a reciprocating saw to cut the pallet into the triangular shape of a tree. Paint it green and decorate to your preferences. 

Wooden stake tree

Similarly, you can use boards from the pallet, or other project, to make a tree. Use one sturdy vertical stake or other board as your base. Cut several other flat boards into varying lengths each an inch or two wider than the last. Then mount those boards to your stake horizontally with the shortest at the top and the longest at the bottom. Paint and decorate. This is a tree that’s easy to store and reuse year after year. 

A green houseplant sitting against a window with shutters


If you already have a large houseplant, convert it into your temporary Christmas tree with lights and decorations. Smaller plants can become a tabletop option, while larger plants can be placed on a small support that’s covered with fabric on the floor. This will elevate it to make room for gifts below. 

A chalkboard with the words "Merry Christmas" on it

Chalk paint

For the artistic type or for those with zero floor space, decorate a wall using chalk paint and simply draw your Christmas tree in place. Add gifts and surround the space with LED light strings. It’s energy-efficient and fun.

A yellow paper inside a green paper with trees and pine trees standing on it with the words "Team Trees" laid out in the middle in block letters

3D-printed tree

If you have the equipment, order up some environmentally-friendly filament and print your own tree. You can customize the size and use it year after year with zero waste

Glass bottle tree

Go green with green glass. We won’t judge if you have dozens of liquor bottles to use for the project. Of course, you can go with other beverage or food bottles too. To build, create a circle of bottles the size of your base. Layer with a round piece of glass and make the next layer up smaller. Add another piece of glass and a smaller layer of bottles on that. Each tier will be narrower than the last, culminating with a single bottle on top. You can add a star or angel to the top too.

A wooden Christmas tree made of logs with presents sitting next to it wrapped in brown paper and white ribbon

Prefabricated wood tree

If you’re not in a do-it-yourself mood, look to craftsmen online for sustainable Christmas tree alternatives. For example, Etsy offers trees made from driftwood, branches and offcut wood. These solutions require no water and can be used season after season. 

Two Christmas trees that are both decorated in lights but only the one in the distance has the lights turned on

An uncut tree

While not really an alternative to a traditional Christmas tree, placing a live tree in your home is an alternative to cutting one down. The size you choose is up to you, so figure out what makes sense in your space. A studio apartment can become festive with a tiny tree as a table centerpiece. A larger space will benefit from a tree in a pot. Either way, be sure to plant your tree afterwards.

Stick tree

For a natural tree that takes up little space and doesn’t leave behind pine needles, collect small branches or driftwood. Stack the branches above each other on the wall with the longest at the bottom and the shortest at the top. Then decorate with lights, bulbs, popcorn strands or whatever else inspires you.

Via Huffpost, Organic Authority

Images via Unsplash