The office party. Michael Bublé. Sprouts. Too much to eat. Squeezing everyone in, the house in lockdown. Relatives sleeping in the spare room/living room/bath/under the stairs. Family arguments. Sprouts. Fairy lights from the 1980’s posing as a pretty, potential fire hazard. More sprouts.
Ah, Christmas. A time that novelty socks, advocaat (and sprouts) were made for.
It’s also a time when plastic overkill becomes even more exuberant. Those fairy lights and all the accompanying tinsel and baubles. Glitter, table decorations, throwaway splash proof tablecloths and unrecyclable shiny wrapping paper. Rubbish Secret Santa gifts. Not to mention too many kids toys to know what to do with.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Many of us are now moving to a zero waste lifestyle. Or at least we’re looking to minimise the waste we create. The Christmas tree is often the centrepiece of the festivities and it is possible to have a planet-friendly one.
Don’t resort to a plastic tree that gets dragged, dustily, out of the loft each year. Here’s some sustainable and ecologically sound Christmas tree ideas you could try instead.
Wooden It Be Nice…
I have a wooden Christmas tree that I bought from Fairtrade retailers, Culture Vulture a few years ago. It’s made from sustainable teak, and I love it.
It’s extremely simple – think of it as a two-dimensional tree. It has one long vertical plank of wood. Ten horizontal planks of varying size are nailed to it to resemble the typical triangle shape of a traditional tree.
I don’t even need to make space for it. I just hang it on the wall once I’ve decorated it, like a low hanging picture.
If you love the sound of this, it would also be very simple to make. You could use offcuts of wood from other projects if you’re that way inclined. Other than that, it doesn’t have to be flat. You could get the kids involved in collecting fallen branches or driftwood from the beach. (And do a two-minute beach clean whilst you’re there!) Carefully fix it all together and hey presto, homemade, sustainable tree! (Make sure you give wood collected from outside a bit of a clean. Unless you want to invite creepy crawlies to Christmas dinner.)
Using the Greenery You Already Have
Buck the trend, go without a Christmas tree and decorate a houseplant instead. Aside from not having to buy something else, you don’t have to move everything around to make space either.
Make sure it’s a sturdy houseplant, one that can withstand things hanging from its leaves. One of my fondest childhood Christmas memories was making our own tree decorations. We’d wrap corks from wine bottles in silver foil chocolate wrappers – both of which are abundant in December.
Adorning a houseplant with your own creations is very satisfying. (I hang trinkets and holiday souvenirs in my many houseplants all year round.) You can also find plenty of preloved decorations in charity shops too – who said they have to match?
Having a smaller ‘tree’ could also mean you’re inspired to buy fewer or less extravagant gifts to place under it, too.
Grow Your Own Christmas Tree
Feeling green fingered? Buy a box of Christmas tree seeds and start growing your own tree! (This is an investment for the future, it’s going to take some time and dedication.)
Beecycle sells Christmas tree seeds that can be started off indoors. When the tree starts to get bigger, plant it outside in a pot and bring it indoors each year.
If you have kids or grandkids, you can measure them against the tree each year and see who grows quickest!
Keeping it Real
Many of us choose a real Christmas tree over a plastic one, and rightly so. Even though plastic trees are (hopefully) reused many times, a new, real tree each year is still the greener option. According to the Forestry Commission, real trees use ten times fewer materials and five times less energy to produce than fake ones.
Buying a real tree still needs careful consideration. Try to source a tree from a local farm to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Also watch out for ‘potted’ and ‘pot grown’. A potted tree has been grown in a forest, dug up and potted. This can mean the roots are too damaged to take hold anywhere else. If you were to plant it in your garden to reuse each year, the chances are, it wouldn’t survive.
Pot grown trees are grown from seed to maturity and sold in the same pot. This means they’ll be more robust and likely to last you for years to come. Keep it in its pot outside and re-pot when it looks like it’s outgrown its home. Bring it inside each December, decorate and repeat!
Try to avoid real trees without roots. There’s no way it’ll survive past the twelfth night and you’ll be buying a new one each year. But do remember, each one comes with a lot of single-use plastic netting so you can get it home!
Renting a Christmas tree is simple and eco-friendly. You can leave all the tree-tending to the experts and still enjoy a real and sustainable Christmas tree.
Forever Green Christmas Trees and Love a Christmas Tree arrange delivery of a living, potted tree in early December. You can then dress it how you like before they collect it again in early January. Each tree is then replanted, ready for next year. Amazing!
Enjoying an Eco Christmas
Being zero waste or minimising what you consume doesn’t mean having to forego a Christmas tree. There are plenty of greener, plastic-free options.
Who knows where your eco Christmas tree venture might take you? A completely eco-friendly Christmas? A homemade Christmas? Volunteering at Christmas? Either way, enjoy, and have a merry one!