While there are many ways to decorate for Christmas, the tree takes centre stage. There are many options when it comes to buying a Christmas tree. There are artificial ones available in a variety of colours and sizes. There are also living trees that smell amazing but litter pine needles all over your home. Which is the greener choice?
Despite popular belief, living Christmas trees do not contribute to deforestation. These trees are planted for the sole purpose of using for the holidays. In the five to eight years that it takes for the tree to grow, it provides shelter for animals and cleans our oxygen. The most eco-friendly option is to buy a tree from a local organic farm to reduce shipping and pesticides. If possible, buy a tree that comes with a ball root so that you can plant it after Christmas.
If you buy a tree without a root, you simply need to make sure that you dispose of it correctly. If you have the tools and a yard, mulch it and use it in your garden. If not, check if your city or town organises a collection of trees for recycling. Do not let your living tree end up in a landfill where it won’t benefit the environment and will instead be unable to decompose due to lack of oxygen. As long as you dispose of it correctly, your living tree will have a minimal environmental footprint.
Artificial trees are a little more controversial when it comes to the environment. Many of these are made in China so shipping alone creates a huge carbon footprint. Some are also made out of materials that contain lead and are toxic to humans and the planet.
Even the higher quality trees cannot be recycled and shed micro-plastics. However, you can still make a green choice by purchasing an artificial tree.
Not only are artificial trees hypoallergenic, they are easy to store and the branches are flexible to make it easy to decorate with ornaments. The great thing about plastic, is that it can last forever.
So if you know you want to use an artificial tree for years, it can be a great option for you. Try to buy one that is used, made locally and/or using eco-friendlier plastics. As long as you use it for 20+ years, it can still be considered a green option.
My personal favourite decorations are Christmas lights. There are a few that I hang around my home year-round. Unfortunately, these lights are also made out of plastic and cannot be recycled.
They are often made in China and are shipped overseas at a high cost to the environment. Similarly to artificial trees, consider buying these used or made locally. Buy higher quality lights that will last longer. The goal is to keep using them as long as possible and avoid buying more every year.
If your lights stop working, take them in and see if they can be fixed before you throw them away. Finally, if there is no hope of revival, make sure to dispose of them correctly. Ask at your local recycling facilities to make sure you know where to go.
There are plenty of places that take in electronic waste and then sort it properly. There is also a special bin for lightbulbs. Do your research and make the best choice for the planet, even if it takes you extra time to figure out.
Consider buying less garland lights that tend to break easily. Substitute these with candles or sturdy battery-powered decorations. You can get rechargeable batteries that will last you years and aren’t as wasteful.
Or get plugins to avoid the hassle of charging. If you opt for candles, use soy wax kits and get your whole family involved. Making your own candles is a lot of fun and it can be a great way to spend quality time with your loved ones.
Take it even further by purchasing a simple bottle cutter and recycle some glass bottles into candles! These make great gifts and they are fun to have around the house.
All you need is a glass cutter, access to hot and cold water, plus some sandpaper to smooth the glass at the end, if necessary. It is time-consuming but a lot of fun. You can also just reuse the glass from store-bought candles to save you the time.
Ornaments and Tinsel
Finally, once you have a tree and lights, there are the ornaments and the tinsel to consider. Needless to say, tinsel is extremely wasteful and not sustainable. A popular alternative to tinsel is paper or felt garlands.
These can even be sparkling if you use biodegradable glitter or even a polyester felt that can last you years. Instead of artificial tree garlands, you can go outside and collect some branches and have a more natural display.
When it comes to ornaments, the same rule applies as artificial Christmas trees. Take advantage of the perks of plastic. It lasts forever, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Single-waste plastic is horrible but if you buy something you love made out of plastic, you have a lifetime guarantee that it will last. Buy your ornaments mindfully, locally-made and store them safely year after year.
Glass and Wood
Some of the prettiest and most unique ornaments are not made out of plastic at all. Personally, I can’t have glass ornaments because I have dogs and they will break. The great thing about wooden decorations is that they are sturdy and can get knocked over without breaking.
It is also easy to make your own wooden decorations or buy them from a local artist. Consider getting plain-wood ornaments and make painting them a fun event. This will make them so much more meaningful that store-bought plastic.
If you like shiny things, you can always buy metallic paints or biodegradable glitter to spruce things up.
Opting to have a green Christmas doesn’t mean you need to give up the things you love. There are eco-friendly alternatives to everything that makes the holiday so festive. Plus, you don’t need to make the change all at once.
Consider improving one thing every year. Also, don’t rush to throw out your plastic decorations in exchange for environmentally-friendly ones.
Re-using plastic decorations is just as green as buying new sustainable ones. If you are ready to let go of something you no longer need, please sell or donate it to those in need. Just do your best and don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t perfect.
Sustainability is about the journey, not the destination.
Did you miss part one of our eco-friendly Christmas guide? Well here it is: