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December 11th, 2012 | By Alicia Silverstone

Did you know that every time a Christmas tree gets cut down, an elf dies? It’s true. Ok, seriously, it’s a little crazy that we celebrate this holiday by killing a tree! Especially when there are so many other ways to decorate. Here are some options:

Buy a Live Tree

Stores like Home Depot sell potted trees. You can decorate them then replant them after the holidays. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, check out The Living Christmas Company. They will bring you a healthy live tree and pick it up once the holidays are over. Decorate your living tree with stuff you have. Photos, concert ticket stubs, cookie cutters, twine, and any crafts your kids make in school, all make great Christmas tree ornaments.

Adopt a Christmas Tree

San Diego has a great adopt a Christmas tree program where “elves” deliver live trees before Christmas and pick them up again afterward to be replanted. If you live in the San Diego area, hurry because they are already almost sold out. Many cities offer similar programs, so do some research on Google, post on Craigslist, or call around and find out who sells live trees.

Decorate A Tree In Your Yard

I love this option! If you have outdoor lights already, use them until you are ready to give them away. Or, you can recycle them with LED Christmas Lights. If you’re buying new Christmas lights, LED lights are a more eco-friendly option. If your town has a tree at City Hall or in another public place, take your family to the tree lighting ceremony, and enjoy a giant Christmas tree with the whole community.

Reminder: Don’t Buy A Plastic Tree

A good rule of thumb is to stay away from plastic as much as possible, Christmas trees included. Most plastic trees get used about four times, then they’re discarded and end up sitting in a landfill.

Next, check out my ideas for eco-friendly gift wrapping here!



Some of you were upset on behalf of those who grow and sell Christmas trees, so I wanted to explore this issue a little more. According to Care2, it takes an average tree about a decade to reach the right height to be sold as a Christmas tree. While the tree is growing, it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and supplies oxygen, which is good, but if it’s grown far away from your house, the transportation of the cut tree results in unnecessary carbon emissions.

I maintain that the most environmentally friendly options are to buy a live tree (which gets replanted after you’re done with it), craft a tree from materials you already have, or not buy a tree at all. I respect the life of a tree, and it makes me sad to see Christmas trees lined up in gutters and on curbs after the New Year, waiting to be taken to the landfill. Not a pretty sight.

That said, there are eco options for buying a cut tree: get it from a local, sustainable farm. Call ahead and ask where your local Christmas tree lot got its trees to determine if they are grown locally or if the trees were transported over a long distance. Whatever you do, steer clear of artificial trees. Even if you re-use it year after year, it’s still made of plastic and very difficult to recycle. Keep in mind that trees left curbside may or may not be taken to a yard waste recycling center – every city is different, so once the holidays are over, check out Earth 911’s guide to recycling your Christmas Tree to make sure your tree doesn’t end up in a landfill.


Photo source: / Lori L. Stalteri

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