Have Yourself a Merry Green Christmas

Photo © Pexels/Element5 Digital | Sustainable Christmas Trees

By Raye Mocioiu

Gifts, food, and Christmas trees, oh my! The jolliest time of year is full of seasonal fun and decor, but between the presents and the decked-out trees, the holidays can often become wasteful and harmful to the environment.

The tree is the centrepiece of Christmas festivities, but the debate between a real or artificial Christmas tree can be complicated and confusing. Which is better for the environment? Is it possible to have a sustainable and eco-friendly Christmas tree? The good news is that there are endless ways to introduce sustainability into your holiday plans and eco-friendly tips for every kind of tree.

The Benefits of Live Trees

Bringing a live Christmas tree into your home isn’t as strange as it sounds! Real trees have real benefits, like swapping harmful chemicals and plastics for natural phytoncides (wood essential oils) that can boost health and reduce stress. Live trees absorb carbon dioxide and are compostable at the end of their use, which is another plus for the environment.

Aside from composting, some wildlife shelters even accept live Christmas trees for conservation and habitat projects for injured creatures. To get and give the most from your tree shopping, opt for a farm that reduces or avoids pesticides and herbicides and tree lots that donate to community causes—’tis the season for giving, after all! When selecting your live tree, look for long, full branches and a large root ball that’s not frozen—this will reduce the shock of your warm house to the tree.

Your tree stand should also accommodate the root ball; a large container packed with sawdust, peat moss or shredded newspaper and draped over with a cloth will keep moisture in so your tree looks and feels its best.

sustainable christmas trees
Photo © Pexels/Any Lane

O Sustainable Tree

If live trees are a little too complicated, there are other ways to bring some sustainable joy into your holiday plans. An indoor potted tree is a great choice for small spaces and can be kept as decor all year round! A Norfolk Island pine is perfect for adept plant parents and makes a lovely Christmas tree when decked out in ornaments and lights. Many garden markets across the country, including Evergreen Brickworks Garden Market in Toronto, will let you select a live potted tree to keep indoors over the holidays and plant in the spring.

If you prefer an artificial tree but still want to take steps toward an eco-friendly holiday, tree rentals are becoming more common and accessible. Artificial trees understandably produce more greenhouse gases than real trees—a 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, more than twice the amount of a natural tree that ends up in a landfill.

However, this can change if the artificial tree is kept in circulation for years—ideally between eight and 20 to minimize the environmental impact. If you can find a good quality tree secondhand and take good care of it, it can continue its journey for many years after you’re finished with it. Similarly, buying an artificial tree from a charity shop is a great way to give a second life to a tree that has already brought holiday joy to another household.

A DIY Holiday

Another option for small spaces and creative crafters is to make your own Christmas tree! The most sustainable DIY projects are made with existing materials, so look for materials that could use upcycling. You can put together a tree with recycled newspapers, cardboard, wood, and even books! Complete the look with DIY decorations, like hand-crafted ornaments, dried fruit, origami stars, and recycled wrapping paper for the gifts under the tree.

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