what is the most eco-friendly christmas tree?

A small potted fir tree, decorated with dried orange slices, twinkle lights, a bead garland, and a vintage Santa sits in the foreground to the right of frame. The base is wrapped in burlap. In the background, our rescue dogs sits upright in a chair looking out the window.

All things holiday-related are up for examination when you decide to shift to a low waste lifestyle, and Christmas trees are no exception. So what kind of Christmas tree is the most environmentally friendly? Is cutting down a live tree ethical? Do you keep using your artificial tree forever? Look for a fake one at the thrift store so no new plastic is used? Make a crafty alternative from foraged materials and things you already have? Is a potted tree the most eco-friendly? So many questions!

The answer to all of them is…yes. Well, maybe.

Each of these options has stats and pros and cons that would make a very long blog post indeed. Having no tree at all is the “most sustainable” but that is too humbug, even for me. The most sustainable Christmas tree option is the one that makes the most sense for your circumstances. Do you already have an artificial tree? Use it! Is there a local tree farm you can support by buying a fresh cut tree? Do that! Short on storage space? A small potted tree with a few decorations is just the ticket. Choose natural decorations or use what you already have for the lowest overall impact. In short, choose the best worst option.

My husband likes to go out with the family, find our tree, cut it down, drink hot chocolate on the wagon ride…the whole thing. I went along with it because why not? We had a fake tree growing up and this was our new family tradition. Trees are carbon sinks and supporting a local farm helps keep that space green and suburban sprawl at bay. Last year, our local tree farm had a vastly reduced selection due to low rainfall over the last few years. We felt really guilty getting a tree (we chose one they had already cut) and agreed to do it differently this year while their stock recovered.


the most sustainable holiday tree option

is the one that makes the most sense

for your circumstances


For several years, I have saved alternative holiday tree ideas on Pinterest. True to form, I left it a little late and didn’t get it together in time to make the one I have in mind (something with branches and lights hanging flush to the wall), so we picked up a little potted tree from a local farm instead. In the spring, we can plant this little beauty to become a carbon sink slash oxygen maker for decades to come. But…I don’t like it. It makes me feel sad. I know it’s a combination of nostalgia, social conditioning, and mom guilt, but I still feel sad. It’s a perfectly good tree! It’s cute! It’s just not it, you know? The kids are bummed about how the holidays will be this year and I am struggling with balancing eco-anxiety with wanting them to have the magic of the holiday and all that jazz. I might just relent and get a fresh cut tree after all. Blerrrrrrrg. Just my honest thoughts on trying to balance it all, manage expectations, and choose what works best for our family and local community.

What do you do for a holiday tree, if that’s your thing?

What compromises have you made to be more sustainable during the holidays? How do you feel about them?

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