Sustainable Alternatives to Christmas Trees

Written by Ollie Wilkinson

do it yuleself

Get crafty with our eco-friendly alternatives to Christmas trees and avoid the shop-bought plastic ones that collect dust in your loft alongside your Ab-Cruncher 5000 from last Chrimbo. Our green DIY tree ideas are beautifully festive and fun to make. Plus, you’re not paying someone to cut down the real thing.

Why make an alternative to Christmas trees?

Homemade Means Controlling Your Environmental Impact

By making your own Christmas tree from sustainable, plastic free materials, you have full control over the environmental impact. This includes everything from the materials you use to how you dispose of them. And you may be able to reuse your homemade tree for many years.

Fake Trees Aren’t Biodegradable

Fake Christmas trees are generally made from plastic, which is likely to be incinerated or landfilled when you dispose of it. And plastics can take hundreds of years to break down, leaching chemicals into the environment. Plus, their production and incineration release carbon into the atmosphere fuelling climate change. So, white Christmases could become a thing of the past.

And Even The Real Things Have Their Issues

The environmental impact of real Christmas trees can be hard to measure. Living trees can remove carbon from the environment and store it for hundreds of years. But when cut down, much of the carbon is released into the atmosphere. And afforestation (planting on land that was not previously forested) can involve the removal of existing plants that are already storing carbon.

Plus, buying Christmas trees (even locally) has transportation to factor in which drives up the carbon cost of your Yuletide celebrations.

If you’d like to swerve this moral quandary, you can always make your own!

How to make your own alternatives to Christmas trees

One of the best things about a DIY Christmas tree is that you can get creative. We’ve got some great ideas to get you started using everything from found materials to paper decorations. No chainsaw required – just a few craft materials, tools, and time.

The Hanging Branch Christmas Tree

This rustic alternative to a Christmas tree can be made using small branches that fall from trees in your local park or garden. If you’re collecting from a public place, best get permission. Ensure you brush off any creepy crawlies and check the wood hasn’t rotted.

What You’ll Need

  • – A Metal Rod
  • – Masking Tape
  • – Marker Pen
  • – A Bucket
  • – A Saw
  • – Drill (including Bits!)
  • – A Cutting Bench
  • – A Clamp


  • 1. Collect around 10-20 small straight branches and a larger rounded one to cut down for the base and top of the tree. Soak the branches in a bucket of hot soapy water for 30mins. Take the branches out, scrub them with a small wire brush, and lay them out to dry. Place the larger branch to one side for later.
  • 2. Lay the smaller branches out flat, in order of size, with the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top, with them all closely aligned on top of each other, and number them from bottom to top with masking tape and a marker pen.
  • 3. Mark your metal rod to about three inches longer than the height of your smaller branches stacked on top of each other. Clamp and cut your metal rod with a hacksaw and put it to one side for later.
  • 4. Draw a triangular Christmas tree template on a large piece of card. Cut out the shape of the template and lay it over your branches. Use a marker pen to draw the template shape onto the branches where they lay.
  • 5. Clamp and saw the branches individually down to size to match the marks you made earlier.
  • 6. Mark the middle (top and bottom) of each branch using a ruler and a marker pen to show you where to drill your holes.
  • 7. Clamp and drill holes in the branches using a drill bit the same size as your metal rod, using the marks you made earlier to guide you.
  • 8. Cut out a rounded stump from the larger branch, drill a hole about 1.5inches into the middle and shove your metal rod into the stump firmly.
  • 9. Skewer your branches onto your metal rod in order of size from bottom to top, at right angles to each other in a criss-cross pattern, to give a three-dimensional effect.
  • 10. Cut a small stumpy piece of wood off the larger branch and drill a hole about 1.5inches into the stump to secure the wood onto the top of the rod and cover it over (for safety and aesthetics). You can shape the wood into a more triangular shape to fit the tree if you wish.

And there you are, ten steps later, you have a beautifully rustic, homemade Christmas tree.

The Paper Honeycomb Christmas Tree

If building a tree from fallen tree branches is a little bit beyond your comfort level, this next one is a great alternative. These trees are made from recyclable paper and fit on your wall without dominating the whole room, unlike the 15ft spruce bent off my Uncle John’s living room ceiling. Plus, you don’t need plastic baubles, glitter or lights to decorate. This tree is bright enough as it is!  

What You’ll Need

  • – Green and red paper honeycomb decorations
  • – Blu Tack/wall adhesive

You can source good quality paper honeycomb decorations from any good craft shop.


  • 1. Arrange your green honeycomb decorations on your wall in the shape of a Christmas tree, sticking them down with Blue Tack as you go. 
  • 2. Pep your paper Christmas tree with red honeycomb baubles to complete the look. Easy peasy!

Painted Pallet Board Christmas Tree

And lastly, more found materials. This time – an old wooden pallet.

What You’ll Need

  • – A wooden pallet
  • – Masking tape
  • – Nails
  • – Hammer
  • – Wide paint brush
  • – Something to stir paint with
  • – Leftover white emulsion.
  • – Your choice of baubles or decorations


  • 1. With your pallet on a sturdy surface, mark out the shape of a Christmas tree using your masking tape. The wooden slats should be running horizontally as you face the pallet board.
  • 2. Decide how you’d like to space your decorations within the lines of the tree, then hammer nails at those intervals. Be as sparse or liberal as you please. If you don’t have nails, then wood screws or anything you can use to hang decorations on will work just fine.
  • 3. Stir your white emulsion until the paint colour is consistent, then using your paint brush fill out the space marked with the masking tape. The more jagged the edges, the more ‘tree-like’ the final result.
  • 4. Leave the paint to dry before removing the masking tape, and hanging your decorations on the nails.

And if you can’t craft, rent.

If you really can’t do without the real thing this Christmas, you can rent living Christmas trees. Renting means the tree will be reused and redecorated the following year, and you don’t have to buy a new one, a fake one, or make one yourself.

Join our milkround

Your local milkie may not have a big white beard or a belly full of biscuits, but they work just as hard to make your Christmas special! Get started now by signing up, placing at least one repeat order and choosing your delivery days! We drop our range of deliciously fresh groceries and household essentials on your doorstep up to three times a week. Whether you’re relying on our coffee subscription to keep you warm on the cold winter mornings or need a veg delivery just in time for the big day, we make every delivery day feel like Christmas.

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