5 Tips For A Sustainable Christmas Tree: From Farms To DIY Decorations

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5 Tips For A Sustainable Christmas Tree: From Farms To DIY Decorations


How to make your Christmas tree as sustainable as possible this year

Phoebe Young

Tue 26 Oct 2021

A truly sustainable Christmas tree will look, feel and even smell fresher than the less eco-friendly alternatives.

To make your Christmas tree as sustainable as possible, you need to look at everything from where it was planted to how it is decorated, right up to it’s ethical tree-topper.

Follow our eco-friendly tips on how to source a sustainable Christmas tree and adorn it with environmentally friendly, zero-waste and DIY decorations.

close up of Christmas tree lights

5 Tips For A Sustainable Christmas Tree

1. Where Can I Source A Sustainable Christmas Tree?

Sourcing a sustainable Christmas tree is the crucial foundation from which the eco-friendly decorating can begin.

Check out our feature all about how to buy a sustainable Christmas tree for a full run through of the best eco options.

The verdict seems to be that buying a real Christmas tree is better for the planet.

Fake Christmas trees require far more energy to produce.

While they technically last longer, they are also made from non-renewable petroleum based products and plastics.

These take years to break down once they are consigned to landfill, meaning more plastic pollution for the planet to process.

Natural Christmas trees, on the other hand, are a slow grow crop. For the years it takes them to reach a height worthy of your living room, they act as carbon sinks.

Real Christmas trees also require fewer resources to produce and, when you buy one, you are supporting a local farming business.

rows of christmas trees

Fake Christmas trees require far more energy to produce

What Makes A Christmas Tree Sustainable?

Here are the steps we recommend you take to ensure that your Christmas tree is as eco-friendly as possible

  • If you can, buy locally.
  • Use the BCTGA tree tracker to find your nearest Christmas tree farm.
  • Look for the symbol of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA).
  • Or, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol.
  • If you can’t get to a farm, be sure to ask whoever you buy your tree from where it was grown. Don’t settle for a tree that has done hundreds of miles!

As part of their campaign to Double Tree Cover, Friends of the Earth recommend that you consider some alternative species of ‘Christmas’ tree.

Opting for a Holly, a Yew or an Apple tree is a great way to cultivate a really unique Christmassy atmosphere in your home.

Plus, these beautiful trees can easily be planted in even the smallest garden after Christmas, and keep drinking up carbon for years to come.

Now, let's branch out into the decorating part.

Holly leaves and berries

Opting for a Holly, a Yew or an Apple tree is a great way to cultivate a really unique Christmassy atmosphere

Why Are Most Christmas Tree Decorations Unsustainable?

Common Christmas tree decorations, like tinsel and baubles contain plastics, chemicals and other substances that are not easy on the earth. T

These DIY alternatives are prettier, less wasteful and far more environmentally sound.

2. How To Make A DIY Twig Tree Topper

This DIY Christmas Twig Star is a simple and sustainable statement decoration, which makes the perfect tree topper.

A twig star on a Christmas tree

Tree-toppers are a staple tradition in many a country and culture.

Unfortunately, their popularity means that, come November, shop shelves are filled with plastic, glitter-coated stars and angels. This is not a sustainable state of affairs.

Why not cut back on waste and embrace a Christmas craft opportunity at the same time?

You will need:

  • Twigs
  • String
  • Turmeric
  • Twine

Step 1: Select 5 twigs of a similar length. The beauty of these ethical Christmas decorations is that they are meant to be rustic and charmingly wonky, so embrace any knots or nobbles.

Step 2: If you’d like to build a festive spicy step into this tree topper, use some Turmeric to dye your string. It works best if you leave your string to dry once you have stained it, before proceeding with your star. Another tip is to keep it well away from white rugs!

Step 3: Now you simply need to start tying twig-ends together. Keep going until you have a five pointed star.

Step 4: Fix the star to the top of your tree with a bit of twine or wire.

If you are feeling extra creative and crafty, try experimenting with other natural dyes. Hibiscus tea gives a lovely deep red/purple hue.

twig star hanging from a branch

We love a rustic and charmingly wonky festive decoration

3. String Up A Dried Citrus Tree Garland

Our dried citrus garland will smell as good as it looks next to your (real) Christmas tree.

dried orange and cinnamon stick garland on blue wood

To make the garland you will need:

  • Oranges (one orange will make one garland)
  • Twine or string
  • A chopstick or skewer
  • Cinnamon sticks (optional)
  • Cloves (optional – but they do look pretty)
  • A wire rack, or a baking tray if you don’t have one
  • An oven

Step 1: First slice up your orange.

The thinner the slices, the shorter the drying time, so aim for pieces that are about half a centimetre thick.

Step 2: Next, use your skewer or chopstick to make a hole in the top of each slice. Once you have pierced them, lay them out on a wire rack or baking tray.

Step 3: Heat your oven to around 60° and put your tray of oranges in for up to five hours. If you happen to be combining this DIY session with the slow roasting of any other festive treats then get them in at the same time. They will come out with an extra Christmassy zing.

Once your slices have thoroughly dried, bring them out and leave them to cool completely.

Step 4: If you are using cloves, push them into some of the orange slices. It looks best if you have a combination of 'cloved' and 'un-cloved' pieces.

Step 5: Now the prep is done, it’s time to construct your garland. Alternate decorated slices and undecorated, thread them onto your twine or string through the holes you made, and secure them with a knot. Tie the odd cinnamon stick in-between every few slices.

Step 6: Drape your sustainable garlands around your Christmas tree, sniff and admire.

orange slices, chestnuts and cinnamon

Tie the odd cinnamon stick in-between every few slices.

4. Make A Popcorn Garland

Is one homemade around your tree just not enough for you?

thread, and string of popcorn

Continue the sustainable streak and give this environmentally friendly popcorn and cranberry Christmas tree garland a go.

You will need:

  • Popcorn kernels
  • Cranberries / dried cranberries
  • Needle and thread
  • Hob and saucepan

Step 1: Pop the kernels. For the full experience, you will require one bowl for your garland and an additional one to snack on while you craft.

Step 2: You can use dried or fresh cranberries for this garland, but fresh are slightly easier to thread.

Measure out a piece of thread, making it a little longer than the length you want your garland to be.

Push your needle and thread through the first piece of popcorn, wrap it around the corn and then tie a loose, but secure, double knot to make sure the corn does not slip off the end.

Step 3: Next, simply thread everything else on in whatever sequence you like. Once all your corn is gone, or you’re nearing the end of your yarn, tie the string back around the final piece and secure it with a double knot.

Add this to your tree to keep your dredorange garland company.

Christmas tree and lights

If you’re going to light up your tree, be sure to use LED fairy lights

5. Update Your Christmas Tree Lights

Do you simply have to have a Christmas tree that twinkles? We get it. If you’re going to light up your tree, be sure to use LED fairy lights, rather than their more common and less eco incandescent counterparts.

There are all sorts of ethical advantages to using LED lights. They are:

  • Brighter than traditional ones
  • More energy efficient
  • Cheaper, because of the above point

In fact, according to a report in This is Money, if every UK household made this simple switch for the twelve days of Christmas, 57,000 tonnes of CO2 would be saved.

If you want to cut down on emissions even more, then put your lights on a timer too.

Need more eco friendly Christmas ideas?

What to Do Next

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