REAL OR FAKE CHRISTMAS TREE?
Let’s cut down to the chase and tackle the main question: should you buy a fake or a real Christmas tree?
All considered, real trees still seem to be better than the artificial ones but the answer here isn’t as straight as it seems as they both have their pro and cons.
Certainly, a real tree won’t require any plastic to be used, will keep the transportation’s CO2 emissions down (as it won’t have to travel from China, where most fake trees are produced) and won’t add to your waste pile when Christmas ends. Christmas trees are specifically farmed and don’t require any native vegetation to be cut down plus they help absorbing CO2 emissions through photosynthesis while they grow.
But… since not many households have a fireplace (or need to use one in Australia!), in January majority of the Christmas trees are just dumped into landfill and not properly composted, therefore deleting some of their positive environmental pros.
If you want to dispose of your Christmas tree responsibly, then check what services your local council offer. You should be able to chop it and put it in your green waste or organise a pickup. Some councils will then transform Christmas trees into mulch for public green areas!Alternatively, you could also use your tree’ trunk for a fun DIY project by cutting it into coasters.
You’ll only have to sand them down and seal them with a specific product and they’ll make for a great table decoration for your next parties or even for a cute hand-made gift for your beer-lover mate!
Another wonderful idea to reuse parts of your real Christmas tree is to collect some of your tree’s pine needles and put them in small cotton sachets with orange rinds, cinnamon, and cloves to keep the scent of Christmas with you for many more months to come!
A fake tree is at a first look, much less sustainable than a real one but it also has its advantages. If you plan to use them for many years to come, you are not creating waste every Christmas as with a real tree and you can even look into buying a second hand one still in pretty good conditions without producing more plastic and pollution.
However, bear in mind that a 2009 study by Canadian consultancy firm Ellipsos – which took into account the resources expended and greenhouse gas emissions in producing artificial trees, plus human health ramifications from the lead often used to produce them – concluded that a fake tree would need to be used for more than 20 years to be more sustainable than a natural one.
ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS TREES
Decorating a traditional Christmas Tree is one of the things that makes the Holidays spirit so special but there are also plenty of other alternatives available if you are not convinced from the points discussed above.
You could decorate your houseplants as mini-Christmas trees, or choose a wooden Christmas tree, preferably made locally of course, which will also make a great design addition to your room. Otherwise, you could create your own hanging twig tree using twigs that you find during your country walks with your children. They’ll love to collect them for a fun DIY project together!
We might be biased, but we actually think that sustainable decorations look even more beautiful than the standard ones. Want to see it for yourself? Here’s a list of some eco-friendly alternatives you could easily make yourself and will make your Christmas decorations basically zero waste.
Orange Garland: Dried orange decorations smell amazing and are super easy to make. You can thinly slice the oranges and sandwich them between a cloth tea towel. Then leave them on a metal drying rack for 24 hours to dry and lastly bake them on the drying rack for 2-3 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Link them together using a natural twine to make gorgeous garlands or add them to your gift wrapping’s decoration or table centrepieces.
- Cinnamon sticks: they can be either alternated to the oranges for your decorations or stringed together to make cute little Christmas Tree’s decorations in a star or tree shape.
- Salt Play dough decorations: make your own play dough using only flour, salt and water, cut it into your favourite festive shapes and let them dry for at least 24hrs. A super fun activity to do with your kids, they’ll make for amazing cheap and sustainable decorations for your tree! (Scroll all the way to the end of this blog for the recipe)
Paper origami decorations: look online for fun and easy tutorials to make snowflakes, stars or other less standard shape decorations by using leftover paper you have lying around.
- Paper Chains: decorate your room with festive shapes like gingerbread men, snowflakes or angels.
- Fabric stuffed decorations: if you developed particularly good sewing skills during the past lockdowns, put them to use by cutting piece of fabrics into your preferred shapes (we love stars), sew them together, stuff them and finish them with a string to hang them to your tree.
DIY wreaths: use native vegetation such as silver gum small branches and string them together to make your own native wreath. Hang it to your door as it is for a minimal look or add some herbs, ribbons, dried oranges and LED lights to make it super festive.
- Crochet Bauble: you can even crochet your Christmas decorations with leftover wool and thread.
If you are not particularly gifted for arts and crafts, you can still shop for gorgeous hand-made decorations online such as on Etsy or Amazon. If you can, choose something hand-crafted in Australia to limit the environmental impact even more. Alternatively, look for second-hand decorations at your local thrift shop and give them a second life.
SUSTAINABLE GIFT WRAPPING
Gone are the days when buying rolls of gift paper to then having them forever laying around in a closet was cool. Sticky tape, ribbons and paper covered in glitter can't be recycled, so stay away from them as much as you can and replace them with more sustainable alternatives. The latest trend (fortunately) is to recycle materials you already have in your home to wrap your gifts and here are some suggestions:
- Pieces of fabric from old shirts, kitchen towels, bed sheets, napkins. The Furoshiki Japanese technique will come in handy to make your gifts look gorgeous, without forgetting that it will be much easier to wrap weird shape objects than by using paper and the fabric can be reused over and over again. If you don’t have any fabric laying around, look for “silk” scarves at your local thrift store, they’ll double up as a gift!
- Baking Paper. If you have a last-minute gift wrapping to do and nothing to use, your roll of baking paper will come to the rescue! We prefer to use our unbleached paper paired with some twine and a few twigs of eucalyptus tucked into the string for a natural chic look.
- Old Newspapers, music sheets or advertising leaflets.
If you want to accompany your gifts with a gift card, choose plantable Christmas cards. When the biodegradable paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds embedded in it will bloom and the paper will decompose. There are plenty of seeds options to choose from and those gorgeous flowers will also be an amazing source of nectar for bees.
Panicking to buy last minute gifts or no idea what to give to your not so close mate?
Choose a potted plant and accompany it with clear instructions on where to keep it and how often to water it if you fear their not-so-green thumb! Plants will potentially last forever, if appropriately cared for, and will improve the indoor air quality too!
Go for a handmade gift. Those coasters made out of your chopped Christmas tree’s trunk we mentioned earlier are a great idea or you could:
- Prepare mason jars with all the ingredients to bake delicious brownies or cookies. Add some string and decorations and you could even go as further a making your own name tags from recycled light cardboard or thick paper. That’s also a great way to recycle those glass jars we all inexplicably accumulate!
If you love baking, then you can bake those cookies yourself, maybe in festive shapes, place them into small cotton sachets and give them out to your lucky friends with the recipe to re-make them (unless it’s a top-secret family recipe, of course!)
Hot Chocolate bombs. One of the latest food trends, a hot chocolate bomb is a self-contained, dissolvable sphere containing all the ingredients you need to make a cosy cup of hot cocoa. You just place one in a mug and pour hot milk over it. To make them, you’ll need half sphere silicone moulds, melting choco drops and hot chocolate mix. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your add-ins, here are a few ideas of extra ingredients you can use: Mini marshmallows, Chocolate chips, Sprinkles, Toffee bits, cinnamon. Once you create your choco shells, fill half of them with the hot chocolate mix (and eventual add-ins) and seal them with the other empty half, you can also decorate your bombs by drizzling some melted white chocolate on top and adding some festive sprinkles.
Homemade bath bombs. There are some great recipes on the internet, but they will essentially involve baking soda and citric acid (for the fizz), cornstarch, Epsom salts, a carrier oil (such as coconut or avocado or almond), your essential oil of choice and some water or witch hazel to mix all the ingredients together.
- Home-made Citrus sugar scrub. Your friend will love getting their legs and feet spring and summer ready with a sugar scrub that smells like lemonade! The ingredients and process to make it are super simple: you’ll only need ½ cup of sugar, 1 cup of organic coconut oil and fresh orange/lemon zest.
Homemade bath salts or bath herbal teas. A great addition to your bath for a moment of natural relaxation, we have an entire blog with some amazing recipes!
- If you love painting, sewing or knitting, just use your incredible skills to make small handmade gifts that will show all your love and affection. You could knit some coffee cup sleeves for your coffee lover friends so they won’t burn their hand when the cup is too hot.
Christmas might be the most magic time of the year, but it hasn’t have to be also the most wasteful. There are plenty of alternatives to choose from to make your home and gifts ready in a more eco-friendly and sustainable way!
If you have any suggestion or idea, we would love to hear them in the comments below!
SALT PLAY DOUGH RECIPE
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 cup of salt
- Mix Flour and salt in a bowl al mix well.
- Start adding water bit by bit until a dough is formed. It shouldn’t be sticky or too hard but resemble the play dough consistency.
- Warp your salt play dough in compostable cling wrap and leave it in the fridge for 30min.
- If you wish to create play dough of different colours, you can divide it into smaller portions and use food colourants.
- Get creative! Use Christmas cookie cutters to create your Christmas Tree, placeholders, or gift-wrapping decorations!
- Remember to make a hole with a chopstick where you want to pass your string to hang your decorations
- Once done, leave them to dry in a dry environment for more than 24hours and until they become hard (time will depend on how big they are). Alternatively, if you are short on time, you can dry them in the oven at 60° for approx. 3hrs.
- If you have any leftover, you can press them together again and store your play dough in your fridge, wrapped in cling wrap, for several days.