Zero Waste Lifestyle Tip: How To Care For a Living Christmas Tree

Posted by team anato on

A tree-centric tradition

Christmas celebrations around the world focus on an age-old tree-centric tradition of housing an evergreen, decorating it, and letting it protect our gifts until we open them come morning. 

But have you wondered why we do this with a dead tree? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a living tree as a room-mate for the holiday season rather than a dead one? This zero waste lifestyle swap comes with so many benefits.

Here at Anato, we believe there is no better way to soak up holiday cheer than to share our homes with a living tree! 

Why a Living Tree?Why a Living Tree?

Living trees are the solution to our planet’s crisis. So why would we want to cut down a tree for the holiday spirit?!

The older a tree is the more potential it has to sequester carbon. Rather than raising trees for premature deaths in Christmas tree farms, we vote in favor of continuing their lifecycle up to their true potential.

In the big picture, purchasing a living tree and eventually planting it in your yard reaps so many more benefits than purchasing a new tree every year. Do you want to buy a beater car that needs to be replaced every year? Or hope to invest in a healthy and strong car than can last years?! Whether you own property or rent, planting perennials and trees benefits everyone around you. The ecosystem thrives with more trees, and future generations will thank you for the shade, sequestered carbon, and immense beauty each plant offers. 


※ Living plants help to clean the air indoors

※ It will smell even better than a cut tree!

※ It saves you money because you can use the same tree each year if you keep it potted

※ It provides for a year round gift, to always remind you of the holiday cheer

※ Caring for a living tree is an enriching hobby

※ It is much more environmentally friendly

Choosing the right treeChoose the Right Tree

So where does one begin in their quest for a living tree? Firstly, you need to choose the right tree for your location. When the holidays are over, you will be moving your tree outdoors, so it will need to be able to thrive in your habitat.

This is one of the most fun steps of the living tree process! There are so many evergreens to choose from and while part of the decision is based upon what tree you find most beautiful (aren’t they all though?!), it is crucial that you also decide based upon the growing conditions of where you live. Choose a tree that can handle the right temperature range, moisture content, and sun/shade ratio of your home. If you don’t already know what agricultural zone you live in, look up an agriculture zone map for your area. Visiting the local nursery, where you will likely buy the tree, is really helpful. Not only will they carry the options best suited for your specific environment, you can also talk to an expert about what you are looking for.

...could the right tree be a fruit tree?

Don't forget to think outside the box - a Douglas Fir is not your only option. Choose a tree that carries a feeling of nostalgia, a tree for pure beauty, or our personal preference: a FRUIT TREE.

A note about fruit trees for our fellow West Coasters: Four Winds Growers is a multi-generation family run nursery based out of Watsonville, California. They specialize in "small trees with full size fruit and full size flavor." This makes their trees manageable and ideal for a wide variety of homes. 

Place it in the Right Spot in Your Home

Once you bring your tree home, keep in mind you only want it indoors for up to ten days at the most. Trees, after all, thrive on fresh air where they can continue to sequester atmospheric carbon. Place your tree somewhere indoors without too dramatic of a temperature range. Avoid placing it near a heater or stove. Find a cool spot with natural light. As tempting as it is to buy a big tree, a smaller one will likely have more placement options within your home.

Keep your tree for 10 days insideProper Care

Bringing a tree inside will inevitably cause some shock as it no longer has the outside air it is used too. To help mitigate the shock, it is recommended to keep the tree in its original pot rather than re-potting it for indoor use. You can easily place the original pot into a more decorative one to switch up the aesthetics. Potted plants generally require more regular watering than plants living directly in the soil outside because the soil in a pot dries out quicker. Having lights on the tree and having warmer indoor temperatures even further dries out the soil. Be sure to water your tree regularly -perhaps even daily - with ice cubes. The slow melt of the ice cubes allow the trees roots to better absorb the moisture. 

Decorate Accordingly

LED lights are recommended as they are cooler for the tree. Do not keep them on 24/7 as they may still be too warm for the tree. Use all of your favorite ornaments, but be sure to not weigh down any one branch to the point of causing harm. We are fans of repurposing, handcrafting, and ethically wildcrafting items to use as ornaments.

Plant it in the soil or keep it potted?

So after Christmas, what do you do with the tree? Leaving the tree in the pot means you can bring the same tree indoors year after year for holiday use. Eventually, however, the tree may show signs of distress such as yellowing leaves, or it may simply grow too large to fit indoors. If the tree is showing signs of distress, it indicates it either needs a bigger pot, or it wants to be planted in the earth. Planting the tree into the soil has many long term benefits like adding beauty to your yard, creating shade, and greatly contributing to ecological diversity. Regardless, you can’t plant a tree into frozen soil. Depending where you live, you may need to dig a hole for the tree in November, before soils freeze, or wait until after the last chance of frost. It is completely up to you if you want to plant your tree each year, or if you want to keep it potted for as many years as possible while relocating it indoors for the holidays.

A few other zero waste lifestyle tips for the holiday season:

There are so many other fun and easy zero-waste lifstyle tips that you can incorporate into your holiday practices.

※ Gift an experience

※ Gift a consumable gift (think body care or a specialty food or beverage item)

※ Gift a fruit tree! Four Winds Growers has an incredible selection of fruit trees - from dwarf citrus, to olive, avocado, stone fruit and so much more. This family run business ships for your convenience.

※ Using reusable or re-purposed wrapping paper rather than single use wrapping paper is another wonderful way to reduce what ends up in the landfill. Old newspapers or beeswax wrap offer great alternatives to traditional wrapping paper. Anato’s founder teaches a workshop on how to make your own beeswax wrap, so be sure to checkout upcoming dates here.

Proper sourcing for your ingredients for holiday dishes. Sugar and cacao should always be fair trade. Meat and veggies should always be as local as possible and organic or humanely raised. Cook with as many perennial plants as possible.

⤅ For more gift ideas, check our blog post Zero-Waste Gift Ideas.

Zero-Waste Holiday Season

Looking for Zero-Waste alternatives this Holiday Season?

The holiday time sees a big increase in waste. Get our free guide to understand the ins and outs of recycling & find reusable, compostable, or recyclable alternatives!

Feeling morally aligned with your belief system, throughout the holiday season, is necessary for maximizing holiday cheer. Transitioning to living Christmas trees, rather than dead ones, is a gratifying way to blend old tradition with new.

 First steps for following this zero waste lifestyle tip: 

Visit the local nursery and discuss your options for a living Christmas Tree. Share with them if you want to eventually plant the tree in your yard, or if you want to keep it potted for a few years. They will help you choose the best tree for your intention.

 For more zero waste lifestyle tips, take our quiz and share it with a friend - What's the next step on your zero waste voyage?

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