In the sustainability contest, fresh Christmas trees might seem like a clear winner against plastic alternatives, but forested evergreens aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Did you know that it takes 10 years to grow the standard Christmas tree, but they only last 4 weeks once cut? After that, the tree heads straight to the chipper. While this isn’t the worst fate imaginable, it’s never great to cut trees unnecessarily, let alone the 30 million sold nationwide each year.
Did you also know that the Christmas tree industry is notorious for unethical practices that are nearly impossible to trace? There’s got to be better options out there, right?
Well, one alternative is to buy a fake tree. These plastic alternatives last forever – but not in a good way. Plastic trees are not biodegradable nor are they recyclable. Once disposed of, they’ll contribute to the ocean’s microplastic problem.
Plastic trees usually contain a toxic material called PVC that may have long-term negative health effects on children. It’s best to stay away from these whenever possible.
Don’t jump to throw out your plastic tree, though! The risk of these health consequences is low. Plus, using what you already have is always the best option for the environment.
If you were planning on buying a real tree to make this hectic holiday season a little more cheerful, you’ll be relieved to know there are more sustainable options out there. Now that’s something worth celebrating!
Christmas Tree Rentals
Instead of chopping and tossing, many places actually let you rent potted Christmas trees. If this is offered where you live, you can take a living tree home and return it when the holidays are over for a small fee. This way, you can have a festive Christmas season and soak that evergreen scent in while the tree continues to flourish.
Related article: 10 Techniques to Brighten Your Day Right Now
Many rental services also offer delivery and pickup for optimal convenience. Plus, since the tree is still living, you’ll have fewer fallen needles begging to be cleaned up. It’s a win-win.
Living Christmas Trees
If you have a green thumb that’s usually forced into dormancy during the winter months, why not opt for a living Christmas tree? These trees are sold in their pots, roots and all, and can be decorated for the holiday season before you plant them back in nature to live out the rest of their lives.
Related article: What is sustainable fashion?
Make sure you look for a tree variety that can survive in your climate. Take a look at which trees we recommend for your region:
- Pacific Northwest — white pine, blue spruce, Arizona cypress
- Northeast — Fraser fir, balsam fir, Norway spruce
- Midwest — balsam fir, white pine, concolor fir,
- South — Arizona or Leyland cypress, Virginia pine
- Southwest — Arizona or Leyland cypress, Scotch pine, limber pine
Norfolk Island Pine Plants
While these small plants aren’t exactly traditional, they make a great Christmas tree alternative that can be grown yearlong. Simply purchase a Norfolk Island Pine, decorate it for the holidays, and then let this tropical houseplant thrive!
Freshly cut and plastic Christmas trees alike wreak serious environmental havoc, but there are options to keep the holidays as green as can be.
This Christmas season, try renting your tree, purchasing and planting a living one, or opt for a Norfolk Island Pine that you can grow year-round. It’s like keeping the Christmas spirit all year long!
- Bob Vila: Solved! How Long Does a Christmas Tree Last?
- InHabitat: How to choose a living tree to replant after Christmas
- Statista: Christmas trees sold in the United States 2004-2019
- Green Peace: PVC: The Poison Plastic
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Is a Potted Christmas Tree a Good Idea?
- Better Homes & Gardens: What to Look for When Buying Potted Christmas Trees