A little over three years ago, my hubby and I bought our first house. That year, we celebrated Halloween with a huge blowout party that went WAY later than planned (we had to go hide in the attic and blast Amy Grant songs to get people to leave), we hosted a glorious Thanksgiving for friends, and excitedly went shopping for the biggest Christmas tree we could find as soon as we slept off the food coma. We found the “perfect tree” at a local charity and took it home. It reached our ceiling. Too much tree!

Throughout that whole holiday, I felt guilty that we had contributed to chopping down such a beautiful tree. It looked nice in our living room, but I could tell it would have been happier in the forest with birds and woodland creatures, rather than my excessively rambunctious kitten who thought every ornament was a new toy for him to destroy.

I started to wonder how many trees get thrown away each year, how much damage we’re doing to the environment just so we can adorn our houses with holiday cheer? Now obviously, a real tree is better for the planet than a fake plastic one which is made of PVC and chock full of lead and other nasties. After-all, a real tree eventually biodegrades and is technically “carbon-neutral”. Some cities are providing recycling for the plastic ones these days, and you can re-use them, and they don’t shed needles on the floor like real ones do, but they are made out of fossil fuels. Plus, they’re mostly made overseas and require lots more fossil fuel just to get themselves into my living room. Clearly, the real tree here trumps the fake ones, but I can’t help but think there’s a better way…

If you opt for a living pine tree, one that’s native to our area, it’s recommended to only keep it inside for a week so it doesn’t think it’s spring time and start it’s growth spurt (this can kill it when you try and plant it outdoors). You also have to find a place to plant it, which can be hard for apartment dwellers or those of us who’ve already filled their yards with as many fruiting trees and garden beds as they can (I fall into the latter category). So what’s an earth-conscious gal to do??

Enter the Norfolk Island Pine. Two years ago, on our way to go pick out another poor tree, my hubby and I stopped at Safeway. Behold, something that looked just like a little tree, perfect for our little family. It was a little small that first year, but we keep it outside in the summer and it’s grown taller than me (and I’m 5 foot 2 and three quarters!). It keeps the indoor air clean all winter and it looks awesome outside all summer. My cat has a harder time climbing it than the first tree he experienced due to more spikey bits on the trunk. Plus it has three “tops” to it, so I can really adorn that thing with lots of gaudy home-made decorations (we make a new one each year~it’s our little family tradition). The tree is only limited in height by the pot you plant it in and it kind of feels a little tropical too. You can get them at most nurseries and home stores, so their easy to find. I’m sure there are some caveats, like it’s not a native plant, but neither is my plumeria plant that I brought back from Hawaii. I truly feel this is the best option for us and we’ll never go back to chopped or fake.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Have you found a sustainable option for your holiday tree?