Like many people, every year my family goes to the Christmas tree lot and buys a cut down tree to strap to the roof of the car and set up in our living room for a month. When January arrives, we take the tree outside for the municipal compost service to pick up. Since I started my own little tree nursery, I’ve been very aware of just how long it takes for a tree to grow from a seedling into the size of tree that typically occupies my living room every December, and came around to the view that buying a tree every year and composting it is very wasteful. Those 7-12 year old trees would be far better suited to a reforestation project than the compost heap.
So what are the alternatives? You can go without a Christmas tree, but I love putting the lights up, decorating the tree, and watching the kids run excitedly to grab their presents under the tree on Christmas Day. Plastic trees do more harm than good – they require a great deal of energy to produce and they are not recyclable. Plastic treens end up in the landfill and add to the ever growing problem of plastic pollution.
Thankfully this is an environmental issue where you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have a real Christmas tree every year without any waste and save time and money by doing so.
How? It’s so simple it almost sounds stupid.
- Buy a large pot and a tree that grows natively in the region where you live. I went to Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery for mine, but there are nurseries all over the country that should be able to sell you a native tree.
- Plant the tree in the large pot. You can use a combination of potting soil and your own household compost.
- Every December, take your tree inside. Make sure to water it once a week. Every January, take it back outside and keep it in your backyard, porch, or patio.
- When the tree starts get too big to take inside, work with your local parks department (or partnership like GSP) to arrange to plant it at a public park, or find a local homeowner or business in need of a tree.
There are a number of popular types of Christmas tree out there. I’ve started with a Noble Fir, which makes for a great christmas tree and grows slowly. I’ve also got a tiny Douglas Fir, another popular Christmas tree, planted in a second pot. These grow pretty quickly.
The only downside to my solution is that it may require a little patience. You’ll need to plant your tree and let it grow for a couple of years before it’s big enough for your lights and ornaments. All the more reason to get started early!