For millions of people, the Christmas tree is an iconic image of the holidays. The smell of pine, the sight of twinkling lights and the colorful packages which lie at its base all conjure up images of warm memories from Christmases past. But unlike the days of yore, today's generations have many options to consider for their holiday tree. This year, make your Christmas tree eco-friendly with five simple tips from the elves at Earth911:
1. Replant or Donate
Want to enjoy the smell and look of a real pine tree without the guilt? This year, purchase a potted living tree from your local nursery that can be replanted after the holidays (climate allowing). A single tree can absorb more than one ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Imagine how much CO2 could be absorbed if we all replanted our trees!
Live in an apartment or don't have a yard to replant a tree? Consider donating your potted tree to your local parks department, church, school or friend.
For years, many considered the purchase of an artificial tree to be the environmentally friendly choice. After all, it meant you wouldn't be responsible for cutting down a tree and you can reuse it year after year. In reality, artificial trees are made from mainly non-renewable plastics, often containing PVC, a petroleum derived plastic. They are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning their eventual disposal has a significant negative impact to the environment.
Want to upgrade to a living Christmas tree? Donate your old artificial tree to Goodwill or to a local community group.
2. Let There Be LED Light
Make the switch from regular incandescent lights to LED (light emitting diode) lights this season and watch your energy bill and carbon footprint drop. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ten incandescent Christmas light strands, running all night, produce 300 pounds of CO2, versus 30 pounds with LED lights.
If every American home were to switch to LED holiday lights, we could save $160 million in energy costs this season alone. Some famous Christmas trees have already made the switch like the Christmas trees displayed at Rockefeller Plaza and on Capitol Hill, using 90 percent less energy than they had previously.
Convinced you'll make the switch? Don't throw away those old incandescent light strands — recycle them! Holidayleds.com will recycle your incandescent lights for you. Mail them in and the company recycles the lights and the box they were shipped in, and they will send you a coupon for 15 percent off LED light purchases through their site. You can save even more and use those new LED lights on a timer!
3. Make or Buy Recycled Ornaments
Until the mid-19th century, Christmas ornaments were entirely handmade. Families would get together and make ornaments from pine cones, pieces of cloth, wood carvings, fruit and berries. Today, most ornaments are made of plastic or glass and purchased from a retailer.
Try reconnecting with the holiday spirit of Christmases past and make ornaments out of recycled materials. Pine cones, gingerbread cookies cut into shapes, paper chains made of used paper or junk mail, painted old light bulbs or ribbons made from wrapping material all make great recycled Christmas ornaments.
Not the creative type? Many online retailers offer ornaments made of recycled materials for sale.
4. Alternative Christmas Tree
There are some fun alternative options out there for celebrating the holidays with a Christmas tree this year. One of our favorite options is renting a Christmas tree. The Living Christmas Tree Company in Portland, Ore., will deliver you a living Christmas tree, then return and pick up the tree after Christmas and deliver them to local parks, schools and other groups who pay $10 to have the trees planted on their property. It is a great way to enjoy the look and pine scent of a real tree, at the same time ensuring it is replanted after use. And the hard work is done for you!
Or, try adopting a Christmas tree this year. Adopt a Christmas Tree in San Diego, Calif., will deliver a potted living tree to you via singing elves! They set up the tree for you, then pick it up and replant the tree in areas devastated by California fires.
5. Recycle Your Tree With Earth911
Real Christmas trees can be recycled in a variety of ways. They can be turned into mulch and used in gardening and landscaping or chipped and used on hiking trails, paths and walkways. Christmas trees have also been used for erosion control, soil stabilization and shoreline maintenance. When used in this manner, the trees not only stabilize the soil, but also provide habitats for fish, birds, amphibians and mammals.