8 Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Traditional Christmas Trees

Eco Alternatives to Traditional Christmas Trees

Even if the holidays are just around the corner, you don’t have to panic with the rest of the world to look for the perfect tree and pay an obscene amount for a seasonal item that will be discarded a few weeks later.

Today, we’ll be looking into alternatives to traditional Christmas trees that are sustainable, environmentally sound, and easily affordable!

1. Potted Plants

Potted Plants
Image by Sunset Magazine

Materials to Inspire:

  • Houseplants
  • String lights
  • Ornaments
  • Additional decorations

Decorating your plants is definitely one of the easiest ways to be eco-friendly. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot to make everything festive and cheery!

Using what you already have reduces waste and environmental impact. Plus, potted plants need minimal care, making them wonderfully hassle-free choices.

Plants to Try
There are so many ideas to try so we’ve limited the list to our favorites!
1. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary leaves make wonderful alternatives to Christmas trees. The needle-like leaves look like traditional firs while the scent lends a touch of festive calmness to your indoor decor.
Plus, you can always take out a bit of the leaves when you need them for cooking!
2. Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp.)
If you want a bit of tropical touch for the holidays, the Christmas cactus is your plant for the season. This is a great choice if you live in an area that doesn’t naturally have colder climates.
Come to think of it, you can always grow this prickly beauty indoors throughout the year!
3. Succulents
Pick any that you have! You might use one or a collection of succulents to decorate your indoor spaces.
They’re perfect for beginners plus they come in a wide range of colors – from greens to purples and reds. If you can’t think of any, well, there’s always Aloe Vera!
4. Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
With clusters of long-lasting flowers, you can never go wrong with this plant. They’re small, so they fit in perfectly if you have limited space.
5. Crotons
Bursting with colorful leaves, you can just decorate with string lights and you’re pretty much done! Plus, this plant is perfect as a standalone decor or grouped together with other holiday arrangements.

2. Natural Finds

Natural Finds
Image by Rural Sprout

Materials to Inspire:

  • Pinecones
  • Tree branches
  • Additional decorations

Let’s go to the great outdoors and find inspiration. After all, Mother Nature loves it when we celebrate her.

By using natural finds, we create unique and sustainable alternatives to the traditional tree, which can sometimes be a bit costly and environmentally unsound. Besides, nothing hearkens our hearts more than going back to basics!

Ideas to Try
We love free stuff, and these two are our favorite finds from nature!
1. Christmas Pine Cones
If you have pine cones around you, take several homes. If not, there are some sold in craft stores as well as from online vendors.
Arrange the pine cones into a tree-like shape and glue them together. At this point, you can stop and use them as is for a naturally rustic look.
But if you’re going a bit more festive, you can paint them in your preferred holiday color theme. 
2. Christmas Branches
Branches can be found in parks, or even in your backyard. Make sure they’re not diseased or infested with pests, though.
Bring them in, and arrange them in a tree-like shape. Add some ornaments and some fairy lights, and you just made yourself a rustic Christmas tree thanks to Mother Nature!

3. Ladder Christmas Tree

Ladder Christmas Tree
Image by LatestLY

Materials to Inspire:

  • Ladder
  • String lights
  • Ornaments
  • Additional decorations

We know what you’re thinking: Really? A ladder?

It’s not the first thing that always comes to mind when thinking about Christmas trees, but it’s a very creative and eco-friendly option. Plus, you don’t really have to spend a lot, assuming you have a ladder lying around.

Ideas to Try
Time to step up your holiday game with some eco-friendly twist!
1. Finding a Place for the Ladder
Make sure it’s in a safe and stable location, ideally against a wall. Open it up so it resembles the A-frame of a traditional Christmas tree.
Now comes the fun part: decorating it!
2. Minimalist Decor
You might want to go simple, and we don’t blame you. Maybe some string lights and a select collection of ornaments, and you’ve got a minimalist interpretation of the Christmas tree without breaking the bank.
3. Making Things Personal
On the other hand, you can go and decorate your ladder with items that bring you joy. Faces of your family and friends, some holiday souvenirs, handwritten notes, and everything that brings you that happy and cozy feeling for the holidays.

4. Driftwood Christmas Tree

Driftwood Christmas Tree
Image by Bob Vila

Materials to Inspire:

  • Driftwood
  • Sea shells
  • Sea glass
  • String lights
  • Ornaments
  • Additional decorations

So you live in the coastal areas? No problem! Even if you live in the city and you’re looking for that calm coastal cool for your holiday decor, it can still be done!

How to Make Driftwood Christmas Tree
Everyone loves that coastal vibe, and you should try bringing some of that home.
1. Collect your driftwood.
You can find them at beaches or buy them from craft stores. Choose weathered and distinctive pieces for added character in your driftwood tree.
2. Assemble your tree.
Pick a sturdy wooden base or container to support your driftwood tree. Place the longest driftwood piece vertically in the center as the trunk.
Arrange shorter driftwood pieces horizontally, securing them with adhesive or screws as you work your way up. Make sure the tree stands upright and is secure.
3. Decorate your driftwood tree.
Decoration is as personal as it can get, but here are some ideas for you to try: 
Hang seashell ornaments for a coastal touch. Add tiny LED lights for a warm glow. Use beach-themed items like starfish, rope, and fishing nets. Finish the look with a burlap tree skirt.

5. Piled Up Christmas Trees

Piled Up Christmas Trees
Image by Green Queen

Materials to Inspire:

  • Gift boxes
  • Books
  • Bottles
  • Wine corks
  • Clothes
  • String lights
  • Ornaments
  • Additional decorations

How about something unconventional, eco-friendly, and totally creative? Piling things up artfully is one way you can use existing materials around your home to bring the holiday cheer!

Ideas to Try
It’s time to stop buying seasonal decor, so here are some materials you can use that you already have!
1. Gift Tree
Even if you don’t have that many gifts lying around, you probably have several empty boxes just waiting to be used. Now’s the time to use them.
Wrap those boxes up as you want – whether in plain brown wrapping paper or the shiniest or most colorful wrappers around! Arrange these boxes into a tree-like shape, decorate it, and voila – a Christmas Gift Tree that keeps on giving!
2. Book Christmas Tree
If you love books and want to display them as holiday decor, why not? Stack your books into a tree-like shape and decorate the book Christmas tree with string lights, ornaments, and even some personal mementos!
3. Bottle Christmas Tree
If you have been enjoying bottles of wine during the year, now’s the time to showcase your, ahem, adventurous journey as an oenophile. Of course, you can always use other types of bottles such as beer bottles or even jars!
To make this a bit more stable, you’ll need a wooden or metal dowel. Slide the bottles onto the dowel, starting with the largest at the bottom, and you’re good to go!
4. Wine Cork Christmas Tree
If you have been collecting wine corks for a while, then it’s a good time to put them to good use. Of course, you can always ask them from friends who love to try wines.
Simply glue all the corks together until they form a tree-like shape. Then it’s up to you how to decorate them!
5. Fashionable Christmas Tree
Looking to bring out your style and more? Try arranging your clothes, accessories, and footwear into a tree!
Make sure they’re stable and fit well with your color scheme in mind. Plus, these fashionable items just might inspire you to kick things up a notch when dressing for the holidays!

6. Wall Art Christmas Trees

Wall Art Christmas Trees
Image by Austin Angels

Materials to Inspire:

  • Chalkboard paint
  • Tree decal prints or posters
  • Paper
  • Wine corks
  • Clothes
  • String lights
  • Ornaments
  • Additional decorations

Limited space? We got you.

We’ve got a list of ideas that are highly creative, artistic, unconventional, and most of all, eco-friendly while being easy on the budget!

Ideas to Try
Showcase your tree without taking up space! Let’s look at some ideas:
1. Chalkboard Christmas Tree
Spray some chalkboard paint on the area where you want to display your “tree”. Once the paint is dry, decorate your chalkboard with holiday greetings, ornaments, and drawings with chalk and chalk markers.
Best of all, you can simply erase everything after the holidays and then use it as a regular chalkboard to remind you of meetings, grocery lists, and other important notes!
2. Tree Prints
For this one, all you need are large tree decals or posters with a holiday theme, such as a tree made of words like “joy” and “peace.” These prints can be easily applied to your wall and removed without damaging the paint.
3. Paper Triangle Tree
This one makes you a bit crafty but simple enough that a first-grader can do it! Cut triangles from green paper to create tree layers and a brown rectangle for the trunk. 
Arrange and stick them on your wall to form a Christmas tree shape. You can also decorate with ornaments made from colored paper, and you’re done!
You can also do the same with crepe paper, felt paper, or even washi tapes. Or mix everything together and make a wonderful mixed-media Christmas tree!

7. Mobile Christmas Tree

Mobile Christmas Tree
Image by Cleverly

Contemporary, space-efficient, and cost-saving? Now that’s a Christmas tree alternative worth checking out!

Mobile Christmas trees can be suspended from the ceiling, providing an enchanting and whimsical display that will leave you and your guests in awe. 

How to Make a Mobile Christmas Tree
So you think mobile phones are for babies? Nope!
1. Select a frame. 
You can make this frame from materials like wire, wooden dowels, or even a hula hoop. Make sure that the frame is strong enough to support the weight of your decorations.
2. Add the hanging mechanism. 
Attach strings or transparent fishing lines to the frame at different lengths to make a tiered effect. These strings will serve as the means to hang your holiday decorations.
3. Decorate the mobile. 
Put on your creative hat and hang your decorations at varying heights to build depth and visual interest.
4. Secure the mobile Christmas tree. 
Hand the mobile Christmas tree. Make sure that it won’t sway or wobble both safety and aesthetic purposes.

8. Recycled Cardboard Christmas Tree

Recycled Cardboard Christmas Tree
Image by Green Queen

If you have cardboard lying around, it’s time to use them! This alternative Christmas tree embraces the concept of upcycling while delivering a visually striking centerpiece for your festivities.

How to Make Recycled Cardboard Christmas Tree
Looking for ways to make a tree without breaking the bank? This one’s for you!
1. Collect pieces of sturdy, recycled cardboard. 
Old boxes or packaging materials are excellent sources for this project.
2. You can either design your tree pattern or find pre-made templates online. 
These templates can be laser-cut using specialized equipment at a local maker space, a DIY workshop, or by a professional service. But if you want to save costs, cut it yourself by hand.
3. Cut the design. 
The precision of laser cutting makes intricate and detailed patterns easier to work with. On the other hand, manual cutting makes your cardboard tree more personal, charming, rustic, and a bit quirkier.
4. Assemble and decorate your tree. 
Follow instructions from your chosen template. If you’ve designed your tree using your own patterns, you can experiment with different configurations.
Decorate your cardboard tree as you would with a traditional tree. Add ornaments, lights, garlands, or any other decorations that suit your holiday style.

Planter’s Tips

We’d be remiss if we didn’t add some reminders for you when DIYing your Christmas tree alternatives! Here are some tips to note:

  • Wear safety goggles and appropriate clothing.
  • Use sharp blades and replace them when dull.
  • Maintain well-lit, clutter-free work areas.
  • Prioritize precision over haste.
  • Store cutting tools away from children.
  • Power off when working on electrical projects.
  • Verify wiring connections for safety.
  • Prevent overloading circuits.

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