DIY christmas tree ideas

DIY: 3 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to a Traditional Christmas Tree

It’s that wonderful time of year again to start decking the halls and trimming the tree. 

Each year, about 95 million Americans put up a Christmas tree in their homes—and there’s plenty of debate about whether Christmas trees are bad for the environment or not. Depending on where you live, you might be able to have your tree composted, incinerated, or turned into mulch. Otherwise, it just ends up in the landfill where it can take several years to decompose. 

As for fake Christmas trees, though they might last for a lifetime, they’re made mostly of PVC plastic and other toxic materials, and will inevitably end up in the landfill where they’ll remain for eternity and never decompose. This is why it’s surprising that a 2017 survey conducted by Nielsen found that 81 percent of Americans still have artificial trees. That would mean only 19 percent of households are actually convinced that real trees are better. 

And real trees are better. Despite having that trademark “real tree smell,” Christmas tree farms are designed to be sustainable, meaning each time a tree is cut down a new one is planted in its place. But Christmas trees are part of the agricultural industry, one of the world’s top emitters of CO2, which means the Christmas farming process can still leave a significant carbon footprint behind. A Christmas tree requires dirt, water, pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide, and then the trees need to be transported, which of course, burns fossil fuels. A real tree can also take up to six years to fully decompose, so if you do decide to go for the real thing consider dropping it off at a nearby mulching or composting center so that it’s repurposed and returned to mother nature in a timely manner.

Oh, and if you’ve ever considered venturing out to the wilderness and chopping down a tree yourself, please don’t do that—unless you plan on planting a new seedling in its place and nurturing it while it grows. And if you do plan on buying a real tree this year, please try to buy as locally as possible. Why? Because if your tree, as gorgeous as it may be, is coming from, say, our Canadian neighbors up North, it had to travel quite a distance to get to your front door, eh. 

Even better than the real thing.

That being said, we here at Team Fillaree have chosen to go treeless for the holidays. But before you go thinking we’re a bunch of bah-humbugs and Scrooges, hear us out. Because we’re a crafty, scrappy little bootstrapped business that thrives on doing things ourselves! 

Here are three DIY alternatives to a traditional Christmas tree: 

1. Design Your Own Wreath

Channel your inner Martha Stewart and assemble your own wreath. Pick up a frame from your local garden, flower, or craft store and gather some scrap pine tree trimmings that would have otherwise gone to waste—you can find these at a Christmas tree retailer, hardware store, or even your friendly neighborhood Whole Foods. Lace your pine trimmings directly into the frame and secure it with some sticky green floral tape so it blends in. Add a big red satin bow and whatever other accouterments inspire you like pinecones, ornaments, eucalyptus, flowers, cranberries, and some bright white LED lights to make it sparkle. Hang it indoors or out—and make a few of them so that your holiday home decor really stands out!

2. Build a Dowel Tree

If the nostalgia of placing presents beneath a beautifully lit tree fills your heart with so much joy that you can’t bear the thought of a boycott, then look no further than the DIY dowel tree. For the craftier (and handier) among you, pick up a wooden dowel from your local hardware store—similar to a wooden rod in your closet. Determine how tall you’d like your tree to be and then drill a series of holes from the top down at a 45-degree angle (a downward slope), and stagger the holes all the way down the dowel. Make sure your holes are no more than a half-inch deep and about as wide as a slender tree limb. You can whittle your tree limbs down with a pocket knife to make them fit the holes perfectly, FYI. Your tree limbs, like the DIY wreath, will also come from scraps from your vendor of choice. You can also collect fallen branches from your own backyard. Secure the dowel upright with your traditional Christmas tree stand—just wrap it in some fabric (like a tree skirt) to help keep it secure. Add lights, ornaments, and other tree trimmings—and enjoy this unique, Pinterest-worthy crowd-pleasing tree you can reuse again year after year. 

3. Try the Fillaree Special!

One of our all-star dream team members, Amy Jo, has been reusing the same treetop as a funny little Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree for the past two years. So that means if you’ve already bought a full-size tree this year, you can cut off the top and save it for next year as your very own mini, zero-waste Christmas tree. You can also purchase a pre-cut top from your local Christmas tree dealer and reuse it again for next year. Just let it dry out completely in an attic or another warm, dry place in your home. Yes, it will lose all of its needles and look a little sad, but once it’s completely dried out you can paint it and decorate it any way you like. PSA: If any needles remain, be sure to wear protective gloves when you pull them off! 

Happy decorating, refillers! 

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