10 Unique Upcycled Christmas Tree Ideas To Inspire Your Sustainable Yuletide Season

It's always good to be conscious about properly recycling your Christmas tree when the holiday season is over, but what have you considered scrapping the idea of a real tree altogether? While it might sound blasphemous, there is a good cause. Unfortunately, in the world of sustainable practices, purchasing and displaying a previously live tree rank low on the eco-warrior list, per Popular Science. If you're thinking about an artificial tree, CNN notes that they only slightly edge out living-dead trees in terms of keeping things green. In fact, you have to use it for a minimum of five years in order for it to have less of an environmental impact than a real tree.

Enter upcycling. This is just using what you've got to make your own version of a Christmas tree. (It's eco-chic.) Creating your own version of a holiday tree can be as big or small of a project as you like and can also add a nice personal touch to your décor. You could even make it a bonding moment with friends and family! All it takes is a little imagination and some good old fashion inspiration, which you'll hopefully find below.

1. Books

If you're a serious bibliophile or collector of literature, then you should definitely entertain the idea of making a Christmas tree out of books. It can be as big or small as you like, but in reality, it depends on how many books you actually own. You can make a 3-foot, 3D bibliophile tree using as few as 100 books; if you'd like a fuller-looking tree, use more books. 

2. Bicycles, wheels, and bike parts

Perhaps you work at a bike shop, or you're an avid cycler or enjoy the triathlon life. On the other hand, maybe you just like steampunk and have a bunch of gears, wheels, and other mechanical odds and ends available at your disposal. Whatever the reason, the bicycle wheel-themed Christmas tree and decorations in the image above should inspire you to tinker with a tree instead of buying one from a tree lot. It's also a good reminder that biking is one of the most earth-friendly forms of transportation.

3. PVC piping

PVC piping can be used for more than just irrigation, sewage, and water mains. This versatile plastic tube can also be made into structures like Christmas trees. This modern-looking wall-mounted PVC pipe tree acts almost like a display for your ornaments. So if you're a collector of tree jewelry, then maybe this somewhat labor-intensive tree project is for you.

4. Ladder

Even the simplest of things, like a ladder, can be magically transformed into a Christmas tree or tree-like village display, like the one featured in the image above. To make a ladder tree that doesn't look anything like a piece of equipment, you'll need a lot of pine boughs. Or, you could go rustic and simple and decorate the ladder as is.

5. Wall lights

One of the simplest ways to recreate a Christmas tree is to attach string lights on your wall in the shape of a tree. To keep them in place, you can utilize tape, push pins, or command hooks which are probably the best option, as long as you don't have textured walls. Wall-mounted Christmas trees are best for small places. Moreover, string lights that use rechargeable batteries are the most eco-friendly option because they don't use too much energy.

6. Driftwood

Other than using a pre-cut tree, sourcing inspiration from your natural surroundings is a great way to tie in upcycling, sustainability, and the holiday. If you live near a body of water, check out the shoreline for washed-up driftwood that can be used to make a wall-hanging tree. Or, if you want to tackle something a bit more vertical and dimensional, you can make a rustic yet coastal tree from beach debris. Don't forget to look for interesting rocks, shells, or even beach glass to add as ornaments.

7. Wooden pallets

Wooden pallets are super sustainable because they don't come from old-growth forests. You can typically find them for free at big box stores, supermarkets, hardware stores, and even Craigslist. For a quick and easy pallet Christmas tree, simply paint a tree on a pallet and hang ornaments. To make one or more sweet minimalist trees, you'll need to deconstruct each pallet first. You can even add hooks for ornaments if desired.

8. Tomato cage and pine boughs

It's winter, which means those of you who are living in colder climates are probably not growing much in your garden. So, put those untapped tomato cages to good use and make a Christmas tree. All you'll need is pine boughs, which you can usually get for free from your local tree farm. If you want to "branch out" and add a bit more to your outdoor holiday motif, try making some tomato cage Christmas gnomes, like the ones in the image above.

9. Branches

Look no further than a blank wall, some cordage or ribbon, and branches or pine boughs for a quick, reusable, and artistic Christmas tree representation. Use simple tree branches that are decorated with recyclable paper ornaments, and if you want a fuller-looking tree, you can actually use pine boughs and command hooks. By using command hooks, you can also attach heavier or more fragile ornaments without fear that they could fall off. Finally, don't forget to add twinkle lights to give it a bit of festive flair.

10. Bottles

Making a tree out of recyclables might sound a bit unorthodox, but it can be done (and in many different ways, too). Taking inspiration from this image, you can always attempt to make a beer or wine bottle tree using PVC piping, as opposed to purchasing a rack online or going to the store. (Because sustainability, right?) If you're looking for something even more upcycled, you can try rolled-up newspapers that imitate pine boughs, or even a tree made just out of ornaments.