There have been great discussions this year as people become more environmentally conscious around the Christmas tree tradition. What is better for the planet – artificial or real? We have seen a new wave of innovation year on year as many have shunned the two traditional routes and created their own style of tree. Now that we all have our trees up and are counting down until Santa arrives, we wanted to show your our favourite eco trees this holiday season.
We spoke to our dear friend and author, Julian Hoffman, who inspired us to write this article. Julian has released an incredible and important book; Irreplaceable – The Fight to Save Our Wild Places which in June 2019 was Evening Standard’s Book of the Week. Earlier in December he kindly allowed us to interview him to talk about the book and his efforts to reduce his impact on our beautiful earth. We will publish these two articles in the new year so stay tuned!
During our interview he described his and his wife’s Christmas tree tradition which lead to us finding a whole host of new ways to decorate your home for Christmases to come. Think of this as an E.C.O. Christmas tree ‘Hall of Fame’. Julian describes his tradition as follows;
“Winters are archetypal here in Greece, and the Christmas tree fits beautifully within the atmosphere and landscape of Prespa. For many years I have been troubled by Christmas trees, both artificial and real. On the artificial front, it’s just another item that has been mass produced and sometimes they get thrown out at the end of that same year. Although some keep them longer, by and large it’s a disposable item which can only be used a couple of weeks a year. Having said that, I struggle greatly with cutting a living tree down simply to put it in our room for a fortnight a year to decorate. I also struggle with a plantation where Christmas trees are actively seeded solely for harvesting for the Christmas tradition. Again, I think is it problematic on all kinds of levels.
“When we were deciding what to do on our very first Christmas in Greece my wife, Julia, said ‘Why don’t we create our own traditional tree?’. What we do now is we simply take a collection of prunings from trees in our valley. So, we take a branch or two of Hazel, a branch or two of Walnut, Pear, Elder. Whatever trees we have around us. Most places have different trees available, rather than killing a whole tree we simply prune a range of trees.
“Once we have our prunings we bundle them together, and like any traditional Christmas tree we put them in a pot with stones at the bottom while tying the prunings at the base. They then all leaf out, but without leaves of course, into this great candelabra of beautiful seasonal branches. We will then decorate with our usual lights and tinsel. It’s absolutely beautiful and I cannot imagine ever having another kind of Christmas tree in my life.
“In early January when we take the tree down, we then say thank you to the tree branches and then chop them up and put them in the fire to keep ourselves warm. So, it comes full circle and for me it is a great way to utilise the trees we have around us – but in a way in which they are part of our lives, part of this place, part of the community. The advantage is the trees suffer no damage whatsoever and next Spring they sprout from the pruned branches that are left behind. “
As well as Julian’s beautiful tradition we have seen a number of other great eco trees. Here are our honorable mentions:
If you live in a flat and are short of space a wall tree is an amazing idea. You can walk to a forest to pick up twigs and branches to cut down, or buy wood from a local craft shop. Either use string to create a hanging wall or nail the branches to your wall. Simply decorate with lights and hang your traditional baubles from the wood.
A great alternative to plastic is to get a reusable wooden tree. This collapsible tree can be easily stored flat once Christmas is over. Hang your lights and decorations on it like a traditional tree. Great designs can be made from this tree like spirals or crosses, or just randomly fanned like the picture below. It could be a good idea to paint the branches green if you feel this isn’t Christmassy enough for the family.
The paper Christmas tree is a great way to use old paper before you recycle it. A perfect craft for the whole family to get involved in. It will need a bit of preparation to keep papers and magazines for December but could be a really nice run up to Christmas – almost as if you and the family are ‘growing the tree’ yourselves while you read throughout the year.
If you insist on being able to put presents under the tree the above trees don’t really give you much room if any. This is a great idea for those who love a minimalist tree. A great idea is to buy some invisible thread and wrap between the poles to hang baubles from. This can be easily made at home by going to your local hardware store, it is another great family craft to do together. The poles can then be stored away for the following year.
Although for years Christmas trees have followed the same tradition there is no reason why we can’t be more environmentally conscious when buying (or making) a new one. All of the trees above are either reusable or recyclable. The Christmas period lasts around three weeks a year and the UK alone produces nearly 300m tonnes of waste each year. Consider how you can small efforts to change outcomes by reducing your waste this Christmas and helping the planet at this time of giving.
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones from all of us at Efforts Change Outcomes!
Grace has quit the 9-5 lifestyle in London to study marine conservation in Thailand. She will subsequently work as a scuba diving instructor with emphasis on teaching students about marine conservation and anthropogenic impacts to our oceans. Her favourite eco product is Oliva Olive Oil Soap.