Answers to the Christmas tree dilemma

I happen to be one of those people who like Christmas, since I was a kid I loved this time of the year, I have great memories from childhood: family gatherings, music, food, traditions and of course decorations.

As an adult, when I started learning about the environment, plastic pollution and so many other issues, I kind of felt an internal conflict, especially with things like decorations and Xmas trees – Thanks God presents were never a big deal for me.

Today I’ll share with you my Christmas tree dilemmas and some alternatives to consider, who knows, maybe someone can identify with these lines I am writing.

My Christmas wish

As a kid I always waited impatiently for the day my mum said: “Time to decorate the house“. I was always very excited, especially to make the Nativity Scene and decorate the Xmas tree. It was so  much fun.

Later as an adult, when my husband and I rented an apartment for the first time, around December we didn’t have any Christmas decorations and we didn’t want to spend  money on that, so I always reminded my self that some day I would buy a huge Xmas tree.

Oh yeah, because I didn’t want a 50 cm tiny Christmas tree, I wanted a 1.8 m tall dense tree… You know, the real thing – at least in my mind!

Then we decided to migrate to Australia, and for the two years we waited for the visa, we didn’t buy more stuff (except for a small Santa that I still own) thinking in the moving plans ahead.

In 2009, we moved here, we started our new lives and I thought I would finally have the opportunity to buy my tree, but for the first couple of years we kept moving houses so often that I didn’t want more stuff to add to the “delightful” moving experiences.

I postponed my Christmas wish…again!

Reality Hits

As the years went by I became more and more aware of the environmental issues and the negative impact that materials like plastic have on the environment.

One day it hit me; I realised that Christmas trees were no more than plastic trees made in China (who knows by who and under what working environment) that were contributing to all the pollution and plastic crisis the planet is experiencing. I was honestly shocked and disappointed!

Of course I always knew it was plastic and it may sound silly, but it went for something that was meaningful, close to my heart and emotional (for all the memories that brought from childhood), to something that now was against my values: I didn’t want to buy a plastic Xmas tree!

I also became aware of the fact that most Christmas decorations were made of cheap plastic or synthetic materials that were harming the environment. I even remember a couple of years ago reading in disbelief this article from the Guardian called “Santa’s real workshop: the town in China that makes the world’s Christmas decorations“.

It is amazing how your perception of the same thing can quickly change 180 degrees.

Searching for options

Second-hand plastic tree

This was my first alternative, maybe I could just buy a pre-loved xmas tree, that way I would use something that could potentially end up in landfill and I wouldn’t be contributing to more demand for new fake trees.

I spent some time looking for options online but I couldn’t find anything nice near my place and for a decent price, so I wasn’t that convinced.

Fresh cut Christmas tree

In Venezuela, where I originally come from, everyone uses artificial trees, fresh cut trees are not a thing at all, but I noticed that here in Australia many people bought this type of trees.

I entertained this idea because in the new year we could chop the tree, put in the back yard and it would biodegrade leaving no trace. It was also easy to get a tree grown locally, I also liked that.

I pondered this thoroughly and I really couldn’t do it, to me it didn’t feel quite right to cut a perfect living tree that took long time to grow, to decorate my living room for one month.

A live tree

Researching I realised I could rent a live potted tree, that option really got me excited. I would return it after use and the tree can continue growing for years to come, producing oxygen and absorbing CO2 from the environment.

However, there were no many options here in Melbourne (at least at that time) and when I checked the prices it was a bit expensive for my budget.

Let’s get crafty

After evaluating all the options, I decided to get crafty. In December, 2014 I made my first Xmas tree. Because we were still renting I wanted to do something simple and that didn’t take space, so this is what I came up with: a paper Christmas tree.

Paper Xmas Tree

Paper Xmas Tree

I had plenty of wrapping paper that I had accumulated over the years, I bought brown paper and cut it to shape, then I cut and glued the individual pieces (decorations) on top, I added some fake presents to the base of the tree (and the Santa I had brought with me from Venezuela) and voilà!

I felt really happy with my tree, it was not the huge Christmas tree I dreamt of but I made it myself, it was aligned to my beliefs and it looked good. I re-used that tree for 3 years, actually I still have it – somewhere…

My latest Christmas tree

Last year, inspired by some different versions of wooden trees I had seen, I decided to give it a go and make my own. My husband, knowing my interest in this subject, helped me to prepare and execute the plan.

We collected some fallen tree branches near our house, he cut them to size (biggest at the bottom) and we started experimenting…

Using a ceramic pot as a base, some rocks and sand from the garden we managed to put up the structure.

Then with the help of my mum, we connected the wooden pieces using hessian strings and we used nails which will allow us to hang the ornaments later. At that point I must say I was surprised, It looked quite promising!!!

The ornaments were next, unfortunately I couldn’t find second-hand ornaments, so I decided to buy new ones. I chose materials like wood, tin and ceramic.

The only issue we encountered were the lights, this Christmas tree needed some lights and we didn’t have any…. I wanted to try second-hand but I didn’t have much time to search, so I gave up. I ended up buying one box of lights.

Not ideal, but I decided to focus on all the good choices I had made until that point to make the project works, using natural materials, avoiding plastic and waste in general, so I was in peace.

This was the end result…

Wooden Christmas Tree | Greener Identity

Wooden Christmas Tree | Greener Identity

This photo above is from this year, because of course we’ll be reusing our home-made Xmas tree for long time.

Nativity Scene

Nativity scenes are quite popular in Venezuela, they represent the birth of Jesus and growing up in a Catholic family we always had a nativity scene ready for Christmas.

This year, I really wanted to use a small nativity set I had bought in Venezuela several years ago.

I bought a small basket in the second hand shop (I paid $2), used brown paper again to shape the scene and went to my garden for the ornaments: I used dry leaves, hay and some wooden sticks. I think it looks great. What do you think?

Nativity scene

Nativity scene

“Less shiny, more real. Less show, more soul. Less perfection, more light” – Courtney Carver

That’s it for today, thanks for your time. Let me know in the comments below: Do you own a Christmas tree? Are you planning to buy a new one? Which option would you choose? If you find this article helpful please share it on social media or with friends and family.

Thanks for reading

Diana

By | 2018-12-07T18:21:45+11:00 December 7th, 2018|Plastic|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Diana. I write about my journey trying to live a greener lifestyle and how we collectively can make a difference revisiting our beliefs and daily habits, learning more about the environment and being an active participant.

4 Comments

  1. Elena December 8, 2018 at 6:33 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story Diana, I enjoyed it. Christmas trees were never a big deal for me, it was mostly the nativity set. After moving to Aus I made a Xmas tree and a Nat set from recycled cardboard that lasted 3 years. Now that I have a daughter and my hubby is Jewish I have to plan a new tradition. For the tree we are going to plant one and decorate it on the 25th. As for the nat set, I think we’ll use wooden toys so Cielo can play with them 🙂

    • GreenerIdentity December 10, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks Elena.I didn’t know your hubby was Jewish, you definitely need to plan something for the whole family. I love the idea of the living tree and if you guys will plant it even better, maybe in the future I’ll revisit that option, for now I am happy with my tree. I am sure Cielo will enjoy playing with the nativity set….Have fun!!! Thanks for leaving the comment 😉

  2. Claire December 9, 2018 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    I haven’t had a Christmas tree in years-plastic or otherwise. I am probably a Christmas grinch as I also dont put up decorations. I’m not much good for the whole Christmas thing.
    I have managed to convince a few friends that we wont swap presents or cards.
    I hadn’t thought about Christmas lights until I bought some (what I thought were more environmentally friendly) solar powered flashing lights last year and they slowly gave up the ghost. Then I realised that they were quite expensive and made of plastic and didn’t last long and weren’t so great after all.
    Claire

    • GreenerIdentity December 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      Hey Claire. Hehe Maybe Xmas is one of those things that you either love or hate 🙂

      Great that you managed to convince friends not to do swap presents, less stuff it is the best option.

      Oh the lights, too bad that they were expensive and didn’t even last. I was researching the other day, and noticed that there are cheap solar lights (which seem eco-friendly) but they are disposable, when the battery is gone, you can’t replace them. Then I saw some expensive ones and you could replace the batteries many times, and they type of battery was also better for the environment, this last time is supposed to be a durable option…. I think the “solar” feature can be deceiving.

      Thanks for leaving the comment 😉

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