While real trees do use up fewer materials and resources to produce than fake ones, these “eco” varieties of organically grown trees often need to be ordered and transported from harvesters half-way across the world, leaving behind a hefty carbon footprint. Plus, once the season is over, countless trees pile on top of our already overflowing landfills or left to rot on a roadside dump. With this in mind, here are 10 eco-friendly versions of build-it-yourself Christmas trees that aren’t real trees, and other sustainable alternatives that you can decorate your home with this festive season!
1) Recycled Cardboard Christmas Tree
Do you have a bunch of cardboard boxes leftover from product packaging and deliveries? Why not construct a tree out of these pieces of cardboard! If you don’t have enough, you can always purchase 100% recycled cardboard to bolster your Christmas creation. Remember to recycle the cardboard after the season is over, or deconstruct and save the piece for next year
2) D-I-Y Wooden Plank Christmas Tree
There are loads of creative ways to engineer a plastic-free tree, and one of the best is to build one out of old wooden planks that you can find in used crates, for example. You can either nail horizontal planks of varying sizes to one long vertical plank of wood, or fix it together in 3-dimensional way if you’re up for the challenge!
Bonus for lazy folks: Various retailers sell Christmas trees made out of natural wood, which is timeless and can be stored away and brought out every season.
3) Felt Christmas Tree
Felt, which is made from biodegradable wool, is a great versatile material to use this Christmas season, whether it be for creating little ornaments or for a D-I-Y tree! Lightweight and foldable, it also makes for a durable decoration that can be packed away after the festivities until the season arrives again next year. Plus, it’s super space-saving – perfect for Hong Kong.
4) Christmas Tree Made Of Used Egg Cartons
To avoid these egg cartons made out of pulp fibre from ending up as waste, upcycle them this Christmas season! Carefully paint these egg holders in varying shades of green, and either sew, staple or glue them together to create a beautiful upcycled, zero-waste tree. They can be as small as palm sized, or as tall as a bookshelf – it’s all up to you.
5) Build One Using Collected Tree Branches
This is a great one to get all the kids involved. You can make it an all-day activity by going out on a “branch collection” excursion at a park, beach or during a hike, then build a tree back at home with these fallen pieces of tree branches and twigs!
6) Newspaper Christmas Tree
Another D-I-Y project, this time with newspaper! Use the stacks of newspapers, magazines or any scrap of paper to design your plastic-free Christmas tree this year. Some ideas: you can roll sheets of newspaper up, cut them into little strips or even create some paper mache to mould your tree to the desired shape.
7) Upcycled Tin Can Tree
Use up the cans in your cupboard! You can either stack unopened cans that you have in your pantry, or use opened cans and send them to recycling after Christmas is over. All you have to do is spice these metal tins up by painting them or wrapping them in decorative paper and voila!
8) Stack Up Your Books
This is one of the most well-known zero-waste tree ideas out there. Just use the books you have at home, and get stacking! Decorate with some christmas lights and ornaments, and you have a tree!
9) 3D Printed Plastic Waste Tree
For those looking to purchase a tree: British sustainable luxury fashion brand Bottletop debuted their 3D-printed Christmas tree called Arboretum 2.0 last year – made entirely from recycled materials. Each tree contains anywhere from 260 to 520 recycled plastic bottles to create! And of course, this one should remain a Christmas staple year after year.
10) Rent A Tree
Artificial plastic trees are made from PVC, which is not widely recycled, so once someone says goodbye to it, it ends up in a landfill or is destined for incineration (which then releases toxic greenhouse gases). There are some websites and apps (hello Carousell) now that you can try renting these preloved plastic trees, or purchase a secondhand one to give them new permanent home, year after year.
Lead image courtesy of Hallmark Channels / Crown Media Dev.