The Great Christmas Tree Dilemma

We’ve been married for over eleven years and have had little ones for over six of those. Ever since we were married, we made a commitment to live simply, to respect the environment, and to create a peaceful and warm home environment. So, where do Christmas trees fit in to all of that?

Mike’s family had some real trees here and there, though we both grew up mainly with plastic trees. Were our Christmases any less special? Absolutely not. That said, we love the smell and look of a real tree and so that is what we did for a few years. Until we realized we were buying chemically treated trees, and well, cutting down trees. 

So, what did we end up doing instead of plastic or the regular store-bought “fresh”cut trees? We haven’t found a perfect solution, and below are a few things we have explored.

decorating tree 3

1. Potted Norfolk Pine

For a year or two, we choose to purchase a potted topical pine tree, called a Norfolk Island Pine. These are a fantastic option for:

  • Anyone living in a small space
  • Folks who want to simplify on the consumer side of Christmas and keep it small – smaller tree, fewer decorations – and just a few gifts look like a mountain under these babies!
  • Those who want something real without cutting down a tree
  • Someone with a green thumb – these plants don’t take care of themselves and have to be misted and cared for. We killed ours even though I garden a lot, and then realized we weren’t really much ahead of where we’d be in our mission for simplicity and care for the environment had we bought a cut tree.


2. Natural, Fresh Cut Tree

We did a lot of reading about Christmas tree options, and have read articles that tout plastic trees as more environmental due to their longevity and reusability, the fact that they aren’t cutting down oxygen producing trees, etc. We still didn’t feel that plastic was something we wanted in our home – particularly at that magnitude. So, we circled back to fresh cut trees. We are fortunate to have a couple pesticide-free tree growers in our province (Country Pines in Tyndall and Eden Ridge near Steinbach, for those in Manitoba). You can go and pick your own to cut and warm up with hot chocolate while you’re on their beautiful farm. This has proven the best option for our family over the past several years. This is a good option for us because:

  • We get an organic tree that is free of pesticides and doesn’t off-gass. We also learned that many Christmas tree growers actually spray their trees green. Our local grower said they already weren’t using chemicals or this paint procedure and so started to share those facts with consumers. We are delighted.
  • We love the warm, inviting nature of our real trees – the smell, the feel of the needles and bark…
  • The farmers plant more trees. They produce oxygen. This is good.
  • We get to support a local organic farming family!

mike with cut tree hot cocoa at tree farm at the tree farm

If you get a fresh cut tree and if it is organic or pesticide-free, consider honouring your tree by using all of it, or as much of it as you can. After your celebrations are over, harvest the pine needles for use in healing teas and other recipes. Pine needle tea is high in vitamin C and is supposed to be good for whooping cough. Local expert Laura Reeves says that though pine needles are great for breaking up phlegm, she sticks to the tea and chewing on the needles as the syrup is quite “medicinal-tasting”.

Pine Needle Recipe Roundup

Please do not consume anything that has not been properly identified. If you’re not sure, seek out a local professional.

Pine Needle Tea (really cute video instructions here)

Pine Needle Vinegar

Pine Needle Juice/Cocktail (swap agave for honey!)

Pine Needle Cake (I recommend subbing in unrefined sugar and whole flours) – some good info here on tasty varieties

Pine Needle Syrup (again, sub an unrefined sugar or honey)


DIY Tree Trunk Crafts Roundup
You can also use the trunk for making crafts –  simple slices of trunk for block play, coasters, decorations, and if you carve or have access to tools like a drill press, then the options are many (think candle holders, wooden spoons, wood toys, and more. Below are just a few ideas…


Pencil Holder

Wood Blocks for Kids

Tree Branch Fridge Magnets

Tree Branch Coasters


3. Live Potted Tree (to plant after the holidays)

Another option – and probably the best one, that I haven’t found here in Manitoba is to purchase a live, potted Christmas tree. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a place like this in your city… Decorate and care for the tree through the holidays and then find a special spot to plant the tree in your yard or elsewhere after the holiday season. Some of these companies rent you the tree and then plant it afterwards for you. This is truly our favourite option, if only we could figure out the details!


Happy Tree Hunting!

I hope you will find some inspiration here as you hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. Please note that these ideas are based solely on our personal opinions and preferences. I’m sure there are myriad articles on the merits of plastic trees vs cut trees and vice versa. I think that if you are giving this some thought, that you are on the right path in finding the best solution for your family. And that is what matters most.

Share your tree ideas in the comments!


This post was shared as a part of Simple Lives Thursday,  Simply Natural Saturdays, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, and Natural Living Monday.


  1. I was just thinking about this subject today! I remember buying and planting trees we had used for Christmas as a child. We have also bought pre-cut trees when we had no place to plant one and took it to a recycling center after the holidays.

    By the way.. I love your name of your website and the sweet owls! Cute!

    1. Hi Melanie!
      That is lovely that your family replanted trees -what a great childhood memory. Thanks for stopping by – I look forward to exploring your site! Funny that we both have owls in our design : )

  2. Plastic is not more environmentally-friendly. It carries all the typical hazards of manufacturing and, eventually, disposing of plastic. Since real trees are grown specifically for the purpose of being used as Christmas trees, there aren’t issues of deforestation or anything associated with cut trees, so I think they’re more environmentally-friendly.

    1. I feel the same, Rachel! So much plastic, off-gassing, and then sitting in a landfill for thousands of years… there are always intricacies in figuring out the footprint of the given options – I just know some people would calculate the pesticide use, the shipping of a tree to the home each year, the energy use to chip it after or to take it to landfill or compost station, etc. – added up over all the years of owning one single artificial tree…

      We avoid plastic in our home all around – we choose wood toys when possible, glass containers, etc. For trees, we choose real over artificial and think it is the most environmentally responsible option. There are just a lot of factors to the debate and I want to recognize that I don’t have all of the research in my hands.

      Thanks for stopping over and weighing in. I look forward to visiting your blog!

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