Christmas Tree Decorations From Start to Recycle

Christmas Tree Decorations

Before you know it, Christmastime is just around the corner, meaning you must prepare your Christmas tree decorations. Do you stick with the old, traditional way that worked for years or start something new?

Each year, you and your family look forward to decorating your Christmas tree, bringing many cheers to the holiday celebration, tradition, nostalgia, and spending more time with each other. You may be wondering if this year is the time to break from tradition and consider a new theme that incorporates what is important to you and your family.


Christmas Tree Decorations

A Bit of History

The history of Christmas trees and decorations goes back to the symbolic use of evergreens in ancient Egypt and Rome. Early Romans marked the solstice by decorating their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.

Much later on, Europeans brought the German tradition of candlelit Christmas trees to America in the 1800s. By the 1890s, Christmas ornaments came to the US, and the Christmas tree’s popularity rose. By the early 20th century, Americans decorated their Christmas trees with homemade ornaments.

With higher costs, like energy, you may want to consider making the Christmas tree decorations more affordable and eco-friendly. This year, consider engaging the kids in making creative homemade decorations. You may even save money and waste this year. By having a positive mindset, you can accomplish anything you want during this season.

Americans throw away 25% more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday than any other time. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million tons per week! The 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon.

As we go through the stages of Christmas tree decorations, we’ll point out some eco-friendly ways you can adopt. Every year, it seems more urgent that we care about the environment. Jumping on the sustainability bandwagon for Christmas decor is popular. 

What’s Your Theme For Christmas Tree Decorations?

Determine the personality of your family Christmas tree based on your family’s preference, children’s age, and whether you want to make a statement-making tree or something more subdued. You may want to go with more traditional, classic Christmas tree decorations, minimalist decor, or go in a whimsical direction which can be a lot of fun. 

Do you want an understated Christmas tree, over the top or somewhere in the middle? Some homes prefer a fully decorated Christmas tree to an uncomplicated minimalist. This Christmas may be a first for you, so you want something new, or you’ll continue with what has been working for your family for a long time. Your Christmas decor may go back generations when families pass down heirlooms full of meaning and sentiment. These are the things that make the holidays extra special. 

The size of the tree’s height and shape matter as you make decisions on lights, toppers, and ornaments. Decide on how much coverage you want and decide on a budget.

The Christmas Tree: Natural or Artificial

Nowadays, it is hard to tell the difference between the trees, as artificial trees look more natural. According to a survey, about 80% of Americans have a Christmas tree. The majority (63%) opt for artificial trees while 24% want a real tree; a small percentage of families have multiple trees mixing both types.

There are several advantages to favoring artificial trees. They are reusable for years, easy to install, take down, and store away, and may be cost-effective in the long run. Most artificial trees are made from 100% recycled plastics from PVC packaging materials in China and are tidier than real trees.

It’s too early to tell if supply issues will affect Christmas tree shortages. Still, many people remember that there was one in 2021 for both artificial and natural trees due to the pandemic, weather conditions, and supply constraints.

Real trees are more eco-friendly and can be reusable and recyclable. They mostly come from tree farms that plant seedlings for every Christmas tree. You can rest easily on carbon emissions if you buy your real tree from a local seller. Some people may rent a living tree for a holiday and replant it in January.

Christmas Tree Decorations: From Start To Recycle

Christmas Tree Lights

Once you have your tree, artificial or real, you’ll want to add your Christmas tree lights before you deal with the other decorations. You may want to get twinkle lights to enliven your tree.

The eco-friendly choice in Christmas tree lighting is LED lights. They use up to 80% less electricity than traditional lights and tend to be safer than incandescent products because they have a much lower heat output (NY Engineers Can Christmas lights start a fire). Depending on your bulb sizes and the usage for the 40+ days between Thanksgiving and taking down the lights, the cost differential is substantial, with $14.99 for LED lights versus $153.22 for incandescent bulbs.

How many Christmas lights you buy will depend on the size of your tree and your budget. A common rule of thumb for lights is about 100 bulbs per one foot of the tree or about 600 lights for a six-foot tree. From there, you can decide on the bulb size, white or multicolored lights, twinkle or blinking lights.

Choosing A Tree Topper

A topper is the first thing you see on your Christmas tree, and it should match your overall Christmas tree decor. Once you decide on a multipoint star, bow, angels or other figurines, or a graceful finial, there are many options. Families can engage their kids with a DIY tree topper using materials you can easily find in your home or outdoors, like twigs, paper, ribbon, yarn, wire, and pliers.

Here are some Popular Tree Toppers.

Star Tree Topper

Star Tree Topper

Angel Tree Topper

Angel Tree Topper

Snowman Hugger

Snowman Hugger


Many people reuse their ornaments, which can save and make things easier.  Depending on your tree size and coverage, you may have to buy 90 to 100 or more ornaments from basic globes or themed collections unless you have unique heirlooms that hold long-lasting memories. It is a matter of whether you want to do a minimalist or fill your tree fully.

In recent years, there was a strong focus on metallics like silver and gold for ornaments and decor, bringing on a classic feel.

Many ornaments are plastic, at least in part. Increasingly, people are considering buying handcrafted ornaments from Etsy or local artisans with more eco-friendly materials like scrapbook paper, dried flowers, twigs, pinecones, wood, or glass to replace non-renewable plastic. You could involve your kids in a DIY holiday project by making fun ornaments. This activity can spark a worthwhile hobby for them.

Here are some cute and popular Ornaments from Amazon.

Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread Man

Christmas Gnomes

Christmas Gnomes

White Snowflake

White Snowflake


Typically you wrap garland around your Christmas tree. You can reuse ribbon from previous years or biodegradable materials to string around your tree, from popcorn, berries, dried flowers, yarn, pinecones, and ornaments from recycled materials. If you are fortunate to have evergreens around your home, you can use some fir sprigs to fill in your garlands. One rule of thumb for many garlands you need is three yards per foot of the tree, so about 18 yards for a six-foot tree.

You can adorn your Christmas tree with picks and sprays made out of similar materials that can fill gaps between the branches. You can use it if you are fortunate to have evergreens on your property. 

Popular Christmas Tree Garlands

Tree Skirts, Collars & Stands

You find tree collars that can match your Christmas tree decor, but you’d want something durable given the tree’s weight. Although tree skirts are traditional for hiding the tree stand and catching the mess from falling needles, the tree collar may replace it. In recent years, people have used a durable tree collar to conceal the tree stand, which can be a decorative cuff at the bottom of the tree.

Without a tree stand, you will likely not have an upstanding tree for Christmas. An excellent tree stand is an essential part of the holiday, though it doesn’t get the respect or accolades your decorations receive from friends and family.  The tree stand should be a sturdy base, supporting its weight and adding to its height while allowing you to water the tree. A friend once told me that her tree stand, Krinner Tree Genie, saved her marriage from constant sparring with her partner.

Tree Skirts

Tree Skirts

Tree Collar

Tree Collar

Tree Stand

Tree Stand

Repurpose or Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Your tree can be replanted on your property or elsewhere. Cut up wood into chips or firewood. Most recycling centers will bring your tree after the new year. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, a national survey found that 93% of people who used a natural Christmas tree recycled theirs in some type of a community program.  

Final Thoughts

The Christmas holiday comes once a year, creating long-lasting memories for many families. To kick off the holiday season, you should prioritize your Christmas tree decoration by collaborating with your family. It doesn’t have to be the tree, but you can set up a nativity scene, DIY the stockings, or make fake presents. Anything can go in your home for the holidays.

This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.

About the author

Linda Meltzer

Linda is the founder ofThe Cents of Money, a personal finance blog, here to teach and inspire you about money, seek new ideas, and create greater comfort in your world about one of life’s significant stresses. Linda wants to use her financial skills honed by her professional experience to help others get on the path toward building wealth.

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