This post contains affiliated links. Please read my disclosure page.
[Update Nov.2021: Some products are updated in this post on Nov.22, 2021.]
Holiday season is coming up soon and I really want to get a Christmas tree in my home this year. My baby is over 2 years old now and she is starting to understand the concept of Santa, Christmas gifts, trees and lights. Therefore, I wanted her to experience Christmas festivities at home from Christmas trees, lights and decorations. However, buying a Christmas tree is not that simple. As I was researching for a Christmas tree, I realized how toxic a Christmas tree can be. It’s all great providing feeling of Christmas festivities to my baby but am I bringing toxic chemicals to our home? In this post, I share with you how Christmas tree can be toxic and what non toxic Christmas trees are available.
Types Of Christmas Trees
You can get three types of Christmas tree: live tree, artificial tree and Christmas tree alternatives. Let’s take a look!
Live Christmas Tree
Live Christmas tree is typically freshly cut and is available for you to purchase at the stores, tree nursery or tree farms. Trees are cut so it will have to be recycled or disposed after use.
You can also buy potted live Christmas trees. This way, the trees won’t have to be cut. However, if you plan to get a potted tree, it will eventually have to be planted outdoors since it won’t be able to live indoors for a long time. Actually, experts say it won’t be good more than a week indoors. It is also advised to plant a potted tree in the spring because it needs to experience dormancy. Without it, it will eventually die. That means you will have to keep the tree outside and care for it until you plant it around spring time.
There are different types of live Christmas trees such as noble fir, scotch pine, balsam fir, douglas fir, blue spruce, red cedar, etc. Each one has different color, fragrance and branches. Tree should be also selected suitable for your climate of your region.
Artificial Christmas Tree
Artificial Christmas trees are artificial fir or pine manufactured to be used as a Christmas tree. Since artificial tree is not a real tree, you don’t have to worry about recycling, disposing or planting it after use. You can simply store it at your home and use it every time you need it for Christmas. It is also much easier to bring it home from the store since it will be in the box. You will just have to assemble it when you bring it home. Typical artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC plastic. Some artificial Christmas trees are pre-lit so you don’t have to worry about decorating it with lights. You can also choose different types of styles such as fir, pine, spruce, flocked, tinsel, etc.
Christmas Tree Alternatives
If you don’t want to buy a Christmas tree, you can make a Christmas tree creatively. There are tons of creative Christmas tree ideas on internet which you can make yourself. In this way, you won’t have to worry about buying a Christmas tree. Some companies also sell an alternative Christmas tree which you can decorate it with ornaments and lights.
How Christmas Tree Can Be Toxic
Live Christmas Tree
Conventionally grown trees are often sprayed with pesticides such as fungicides, insecticides, herbicides until trees are grown for 6-10 years before being cut or sold. Glyphosate is an active ingredient in Roundup, the most popular weedkiller or herbicide. It is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by World Health Organization (WHO). Several studies have found that ingredients other than glyphosate in Roundup are also toxic to human cells. Also, pesticides such as amitrole, benomyl, captan, carbaryl, captofol, chlordane, chlorothalonil, lindane, methoxychlor, thiram, 2,4-D are linked to cancer and/or birth defects. These toxic chemicals may have been washed away by the rain by the time they are being sold since spray is done in the spring time. However, these trees may still have pesticide residues. Pesticides are environmental problem too since they disrupt our ecosystem and also end up in rivers or our water.
Live Christmas tree can be also toxic to our pets at home. Pine needles can puncture intestine of cats and dogs if ingested and cause liver damage or death. Also, tree water often contains preservatives, pesticides, fertilizers other agents, such as aspirin to keep the tree fresh. It could be harmful to cats and dogs if they drink the water.
Artificial Christmas Tree
Artificial Christmas tree can be harmful because it is made of toxic materials. It is usually made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely used synthetic plastic and it contains dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization. PVC is the most toxic plastic and a major source of phthalates which are hormone-disrupting chemicals. These toxic chemicals are released from a product into the air. Then we are exposed to phthalates by breathing in air that contains phthalates or touching/ ingesting the dust contaminated with phthalate particles. Phthalates are especially harmful to young children. Most artificial Christmas trees are made of 100% PVC and some trees have combination of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene (PE). In addition, artificial Christmas trees often has flame retardant chemicals. These flame retardant chemicals can be inhaled or ingested by breathing in the air or touching the dust around the tree.
Non Toxic Christmas Trees
Live Christmas Tree
Although a live Christmas tree seems to be a more natural option than an artificial tree, I don’t feel good about cutting down a living tree and bringing it home. If everyone used a living tree for Christmas decorations, that will be a lot of trees that have to be killed every year. Luckily, you can purchase a Christmas tree potted so trees don’t have to be cut.
Live Christmas tree can also contain pesticides residues. If you have a dog or a toddler like me, you probably wouldn’t want to expose them to toxic pesticides. If you want to go for a live Christmas tree, the most non toxic option would be to get an organic live tree. However, organic trees may be hard to find. According to the Beyond Pesticides, only 1% of the country’s Christmas trees crops are organic. You can find some organic trees at below link.
Green Promise – Green promise lists organic Christmas tree farms by state.
Artificial Christmas Tree
If you are going for an artificial tree, definitely avoid PVC material Christmas tree. Some artificial Christmas trees are made of combination of PVC or polyethylene (PE) which makes them better than artificial Christmas trees with 100% PVC material. However, they still contain PVC and will emit toxic chemicals. 100% non-PVC Christmas trees will be the most non toxic option although 100% non-PVC doesn’t mean they are chemical free. At least you can avoid the most toxic material, PVC by choosing other materials such as Polyethylene (PE). Polyethylene (PE) is safer plastic compared to the most dangerous PVC. Also, some trees contain fire retardant chemicals. Therefore, be sure to check if an artificial Christmas tree contains fire retardant chemicals.
Surprisingly, non toxic artificial Christmas tree I have found is from IKEA. IKEA artificial Christmas trees do not use PVC and their plant materials are made of PET plastic, steel, polypropylene. Polypropylene is #5 plastic and it is considered to be relatively safe. PET plastic is again still plastic but safer plastic than PVC. I was also told by IKEA that IKEA artificial Christmas trees do not contain fire retardant chemicals.
IKEA FEJKA Artificial Christmas Tree 4 feet 11 inches – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
IKE FEJKA Articifial Christmas Tree is made of PET plastic, steel and polypropylene. It has no flame retardant chemicals. This tree is 4 ft 11 inches.
[Update Nov.2021: IKEA has Vinter 2021 Artificial Christmas Trees in 2021. Materials used for the 82 ¾ ” tree include polyethylene, steel, polypropylene, PET plastic. For 80 ¾ and 67 “trees, the materials used are polyethylene, steel, polypropylene.]
When you shop for an artificial Christmas tree, you will find that it is hard to find an artificial Christmas tree with a 100% non-PVC material. Some Christmas trees will state they are made of PE/PVC material but they don’t say how much PE and PVC are used. For these trees, it is possible that they contain a lot of PVC and very little PE.
Christmas Tree Alternatives
If you don’t want to get a live or an artificial Christmas tree, here are some alternative Christmas tree options. An alternative Christmas tree can be stored and be reused every year. It can be a sustainable alternative to a real tree and an eco-friendly alternative to a plastic artificial tree.
Drifting Concepts Driftwood Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Drifting Concepts Driftwood Christmas Tree is made from driftwood personally selected for quality from the freshwater shores of Lake Erie. All driftwood has been washed and steam sterilized.
Spirit of The Woods Inc Birch Log Hanging Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Birch Log Hanging Christmas Tree handcrafted with real Birch Logs. You can add your own Christmas lights and decorations.
Yelka Tree Wooden Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Yelka Tree Wooden Christmas Tree’s branches are made of maple, that is sustainably forested and grown in Slovenia. The branches are finished with a couple of coats of oil to give the tree a nice and warm feeling. The trunk is a steel rod and the base a steel plate. The steel is painted with a powder coating process which is the most environmentally friendly type of coating and the finish is tougher than conventional paint.
This is a large size tree (4,9 feet) and there is also a medium size Yelka Tree Wooden Christmas tree(40 inch).
Natural Wood Company Oak Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Natural Wood Company Oak Christmas Tree is completely handmade out of sustainably forested English Oak, each branch sanded smooth and finished in a clear hard wearing waxoil, which enhances the Oak’s beautiful warm tones and leaves the Oak with a very natural satin feel. The weighty base and the delicate finial on the top are hand turned from a solid English Oak.
Lakaluka Wooden Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Eco-friendly Lakaluka Wooden Christmas Tree is made of 100% natural birch wood.
Hohiya Metal Ornament Display Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
Hohiya Metal Ornament Display Tree is a Wrought Iron Christmas tree. It holds 174 ornaments.
The Little Oak Company Oak Christmas Tree – Non Toxic Christmas Tree
The Little Oak Company Oak Christmas Tree is hand crafted from premier grade oak. Each branch can be positioned independently to enable you to create a truly individual tree. This tree is topped by an oak star which you can paint with a choice of colors.
This is a small size tree. It stands at 43 cm high including the star.
The most non toxic Christmas tree would be a potted organic live tree. If you could find an organic live tree and do not mind going through a process of planting the tree after waiting till spring time, this will be the most non toxic option. For me, I don’t have a front yard or a backyard to plant a tree after use so this was not an option for me. I don’t want to get a live Christmas tree that is freshly cut because not only I don’t believe in cutting down live trees every year to be used as a Christmas tree but also don’t like the fact that live trees can be sprayed with pesticides. You can also rent a cut or potted tree so you don’t have to worry about disposing or planting it after. However, it is not an organic tree so it could have pesticides. Artificial Christmas trees also have reasons to be avoided. Most Christmas trees are made of toxic PVC material and can have fire retardant chemicals. However, there are some artificial Christmas trees that are made of safer plastic such as Polyethylene (PE). 100% PVC-free tree without any flame retardant chemicals will be the most non toxic option among artificial Christmas trees. However, it is hard to find them. The best artificial Christmas tree I have found is IKEA FEJKA Christmas tree. [Update Nov.2021: IKEA has Vinter 2021 Artificial Christmas Trees in 2021.] Although IKEA trees don’t appear full as PVC trees, it has safer materials than the most artificial trees out there. I have a dog and a young toddlers so I want to avoid live trees with pesticides or PVC artificial trees with fire retardant chemicals. If you don’t want to get both a live or an artificial Christmas tree, you can go for a Christmas tree alternative. You can still hang ornaments and decorate the Christmas tree in that way. Happy Holidays!
[Update Nov.2021: The IKEA Christmas tree has been great last a few years. My family really enjoyed it during the Holiday season. Now, I am in love with alternative Christmas trees that are made of solid wood. I think solid wood alternative Christmas trees can be an eco-friendly, non toxic, sustainable option for a Christmas tree. My daughter would like to decorate a Christmas tree soon this week so it may be too late for us to switch to an alternative Christmas tree this year. However, I am planning to get a solid wood alternative Christmas tree for us as our next Christmas tree soon.
If you are interested in non toxic Christmas decorations, please check out, ‘Non Toxic Christmas Decorations – How To Avoid Decorating Your Home With Toxic Chemicals‘.
If you are interested in non toxic gifts for dogs, please check out, ‘Non Toxic Dog Gifts – Non Toxic Christmas Gift Ideas For Dogs‘.
If you are interested in more non toxic dog gifts, please check out, ‘Organic Dog Gifts, Non Toxic Dog Gifts – Best Christmas Gifts For Dogs‘.
If you are looking for non toxic gifts for preschoolers, please check out, ‘Non Toxic Gifts For Preschoolers – Christmas Gifts For Preschool Girls‘.
If you are interested non toxic Christmas gifts for preschoolers, please check out, ‘Organic, Non Toxic Gifts For Preschoolers – Christmas Gifts For Preschool Girls‘.
If you are looking for a holiday gift for a baby, check out my previous posting, ‘Non-Toxic Holiday Gift Guide – 30 Non-Toxic Gift Ideas For Babies‘.
Thank you so much for this info!
I contacted balsamhill about fire retardants. Their trees are treated with fire retardants. “ Antinomy Trioxide, an inorganic compound, is what is used to make our products flame retardant.”
Whoops I Just noticed had already mentioned that. I assumed since you posted about them you didn’t know they were toxic. Sorry about that.
Hi Denise, no problem.
Thank you for the info! Just got the last IKEA tree in stock!
Thank you! 🙂
For the King of Christmas, on their website click on their chat message and it will tell you; yes, they are all treated with top notch flame retardants.
I was browsing their website because I am looking for a tree.
Thanks for the list.
Thank you for this info! I’ll look into the ikea ones. Ive also been looking into norfolk island pines. You can buy them as babies, keep them planted and inside. They look similar to christmas trees, although I dont know how many decorations or lights you can put on them, especially when theyre still little. They are a tropical tree so do best inside. Can grow as tall as you let them. That way you can have a year round christmas tree and one that will last forever. (Up to 150 years in the wild)
Thanks for sharing!
In this post, you are going to find answers to the question about what constitutes a non-toxic Christmas tree in today’s market. Are the pre-lit Christmas trees or artificial Christmas trees with lights safer than organic Christmas trees? And what about living Christmas trees? There are so many options. No wonder you are feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. A wrong decision can cost you wasted money and unnecessary exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
Thank you! Love the article. Good info.