O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, why are you not eco-friendly?

Yes, it’s true that you can buy more “eco” varieties by opting for organically-grown trees or selecting one from a local harvester, but these trees still find their way to the ends of countless driveways at the close of the holiday season and continue to pile up in our already overflowing landfills. Now there’s something wrong with that picture, don’t you agree?

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We don’t want to bash all traditional Christmas trees though. For instance, according to the Wilderness Society, some Christmas tree farms can help “mitigate climate change, especially as the soil absorbs around 10 times as much carbon as the actual wood.” These tree farms can also provide habitat for wildlife during their “eight-to-ten-year growth span.”

Yet, ultimately, traditional trees are the less sustainable option of all the choices out there, with artificial trees coming in as unsustainable tree numero uno. According to The Epoch Times, they’re made from “petrochemicals, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), metals, and sometimes even lead” AND they can’t be recycled — now that’s just no good.

So since we know that staying eco-friendly with Christmas trees can be problematic and confusing, we’ve put together this short, handy list to get you over that decision-making hump. Each of the five options is “eco” in some fashion, in that they all help to reduce, reuse and recycle. So, go ahead and explore — your eco-friendly Christmas tree awaits!

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1. Purchase a potted Christmas tree

Most Christmas trees for sale do not come potted, and so after a period of time and just a bit of watering, their leaves wither and the tree eventually dies off, which is definitely not sustainable. But, if you still prefer a live tree, what can you do? Well, for starters, you can purchase a potted one instead! This way, once the Christmas season comes to a close, you can replant it outdoors, allowing it to reestablish its roots in the wild, and grow once more. Plus, planting trees helps remove excess carbon dioxide from the air, so the more, the merrier!

2. Adopt a Christmas tree

Yes, you can indeed “adopt” or rent a Christmas tree. This option also allows you to have the live tree-feel and fresh, pine scent in your home. Check with your local tree providers to see if they offer this option, and if not, then that’s definitely the time to suggest it! Some “adopt-a-Christmas-tree” programs available now include:

3. Decorate a tree outdoors

This is probably the simplest way to “get” a tree. All you need to do is step outside of your house, pick a tree on your property and go all-out with decorations. You’ll definitely have one of the most unique trees on your block, and you’ll get to bond with your family (and/or friends) over your new, fun tradition. However, be sure to check that your ornaments and other Christmas tree décor is environment and animal-safe. One way to ensure this is to purchase (or make) biodegradable décor, or craft homemade “treat” ornaments for wild backyard critters — that way everyone is happy during the holiday season.

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4. Opt for a tree-free Christmas “tree”

Tree-free Christmas options are great if you want a slightly different look to your holiday tree. These aren’t the PVC-riddled ones you see stuffed inside department stores, but the eco-friendly varieties. You can choose from some of the ones we’ve selected below or hop on your favorite search engine and do a quick search yourself.

5. Get creative with an “un-Christmas tree”

What’s an “un-Christmas tree,” you ask? It’s any living plant or even non-living structure that is tree-like and that you can make festive enough with decorations to resemble a traditional Christmas tree.

Perhaps this “tree” could be a plant you already have in your home, say a Weeping Fig or a Pulmeria, or even a cardboard box tree. Either way – have some fun with it!

Have any other great eco-alternative Christmas tree ideas? Share them with us and other Green Monsters with a comment below! And be sure to check out our round-up of amazing DIY Christmas tree ornaments to decorate your new eco-tree!

Lead image source: Susan E. Adams / Flickr