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To Christmas Tree, Or Not To Christmas Tree

Though the holidays are a joyful time for most of us, the trees of the world think otherwise. To quote Dr. Seuss, via his ecological evangelist, The Lorax, “I SPEAK FOR THE TREES!” 

Unfortunately, our desire to celebrate often leads to consumer excess, which in turn makes the month of December one of the most wasteful times of the year.  The evergreens of the world are as nervous in December as turkeys are in November.

We all love the smell of fresh pine. For many, it’s ubiquitous with the holidays, but for those who are not passionate about traditional trees, there are alternatives. And for those who are passionate, perhaps consider creative alternatives, to contribute to lessening the collective impact on the planet. While it’ll take some time to convince the majority of the country to shift away from real Christmas trees, here are a few ideas to explore – you might even consider adding a second “alternative tree” to your home to help your family acclimate to the idea. 


The two-dimensional wall tree is a perfect solution for people who are space-challenged, but can work for anyone! Whether drawn, painted, or made from paper, photographs, or ribbons, a 2-D wall tree can transform your space into an instant holiday centerpiece. This is a great opportunity to work your recycling magic, channel your inner school teacher, and display your reclaimed handiwork. A few of my favorites include the chalk wall tree, the wall tree made out of holiday cards, and a tree made out of recycled tree branches. The possibilities are endless! 


If you’ve ever seen Indianapolis’ Downtown Circle in December, this idea should ring a bell: holiday lights draping down from the top of a tall statue creating a giant Christmas tree. Now scale that picture down a bit. First, you will need to find an apex to anchor your tree. It could be a hook on the ceiling, a wooden pole with a stand (think beach umbrella stand), or another simple connector to the wall. Next, you can anchor the lights at the highest point and swag the lights down to a concentric circle. This technique will result in half of a tree, but the full effect!


Pinecones are readily available in the winter, so grab a bunch or buy some cinnamon-scented ones at your local hardware store. You can stack pinecones into any size pyramid and decorate it just as you would a Christmas tree.  Hot glue is a good option if your pinecones need some help staying in place.


Consider arranging plants as a tree. You can buy a tree-shaped wireframe that allows you to arrange a tree out of poinsettias, or have a carpenter make a stand using concentric circles mounted vertically on a pole. This option makes it possible for you to use any type of plant, or a variety of plants, to showcase multiple flowers.


There are a variety of ways to execute a wooden tree. A quick web search for “Wooden Christmas Tree Alternatives” will give you a slew of ideas. Whether it’s made out of dowel rods or planks of wood, these trees can be easily assembled by a handy individual with minimal carpentry skills. The sturdier the tree, the more fun you can have with decorating it with lights and ornaments.


Cardboard boxes are plentiful this time of year; wrap them up and assemble them into a pyramid-shape, like an evergreen tree. You can get creative with coordinating the wrapping colors. Picture it – one rainbow Christmas tree and another that is striped like a candy cane – the more the merrier!


One of the best ways to replicate a Christmas tree is to use a potted plant. Why not put some lights and ornaments on a ficus tree? A Norfolk Island Pine is another great “house tree” that looks amazing when doubling for the holidays. Added bonus: they can be replanted outside in the spring once the weather is warm enough.


If alternative trees are still not going to do it for you, consider the planet, and replant a tree – or three – to replace the one cut for your home. If that isn’t a viable option, consider donating to an organization that will plant them. And ALWAYS, recycle your tree through a local park, farm, or nature preserve. Just check your local listings for tree recycling outlets in your area!

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