12 Crazy Materials Used to Make Alternative Christmas Trees

Tired of the boring old Christmas tree sitting in your living room? Then perhaps you should try sprucing up your home with one of these weirdly wonderful alternative trees instead.

1. Jewelry

Encrusted with 21,798 diamonds and 3762 crystal beads, this blingy beauty—created by Soo Kee Jewelry of South Korea—was once the world’s most expensive Christmas tree. The record has since been broken by a hotel in Abu Dhabi that covered a massive artificial pine in jewelry valued at over $11 million.


While the size of the average home makes it impossible to compete with this world-record-holding LEGO Christmas tree constructed in St. Pancras Station, London, the 600,000 brick masterpiece can certainly serve as great inspiration for anyone who wants to build a smaller version at home.

3. Yarn

Here’s another record-breaking tree perfect for inspiring your own DIY tree. The world’s biggest knitted Christmas tree was on display at Cornwall, England’s Eden Project in 2006.

4. Books

Making a tree out of things that are made of trees is so meta! While I’m particularly fond of this lovely book tree featured at the Gleeson Library in USF, there are plenty of other great ones out there as well. For more bookish Christmas trees, don’t miss this great article on The Mary Sue.

5. Beer Bottles

'Tis the season to be drinking—especially if you want to put together your own beer bottle tree in time for the holidays. I don’t know much behind the story of this Christmas tree—other than the fact that it took a lot of Grolsch to put together.

If you don't want to do that much drinking, use this impressive Heineken tree—put on display in Shanghai, China in 2009—as inspiration: It was made up of over 1000 full bottles of beer.

6. Mountain Dew Cans

Even if you don’t drink alcohol you can still have a great beverage-inspired tree. Just look to the Mountain Dew Tree for guidance. Even the “star” on top is actually made from a Dew two-liter bottle. This video shows a few basics of how the thing is made.

7. Plastic Bottles

If you’d like to try reusing before you recycle, try your hand at crafting an amazing plastic bottle Christmas tree like this one made by Dale Wayne.

When it comes to spectacularly large trees made from plastic bottles though, it’s hard to beat this tree put on display in Kaunas, Lithuania made from the bottoms of green plastic bottles zip-tied together into half-spheres which are then constructed into a full tree. The massive masterpiece took more than 32,000 bottles to complete and it is lit up with over 40,000 Christmas lights.

8. Old Bicycles

The “Tree-cycle” might look more like a modern art creation than a traditional Christmas tree, but it’s still fun and festive. The massive sculpture, displayed in Sydney, Australia, was made with over 100 old bicycles that were painted and positioned into a tree shape.

9. Cell Phones

Westcom Electronics Mall in Vietnam started collecting phones eight months early in order to create this cool tree to send a message about the wastefulness of the Vietnamese cell phone industry. The country’s residents use more than 110 million cell phones and throw away over 50 million of them a year. The 15-foot tree features more than 2000 cell phones displayed over 32 layers.

After the mall was finished with the tree, it was auctioned off, and the proceeds went to charity.

10. Hub Caps

What better way to get your car dealership ready for the Christmas season than creating a tree out of old hub caps you have lying around? This brilliant marketing move was dreamed up by Champion Auto Sales of Arundel, Maine.

11. RAM

Admittedly, the shape could use a little work, but it’s still pretty obvious that this collection of RAM is supposed to be a Christmas tree—especially given the cute little star ornament at the top. This adorably geeky mini tree was submitted to Geeks Are Sexy by Adam from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

12. Circuit Board

Here’s another geeky Christmas tree alternative –only this one comes pre-made. Just stick a 12 volt battery on this little tree and it will be all lit up and ready to glow.

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Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

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5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree

What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree plantations are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way is to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so you never have to dispose of it. But then you don't have a Christmas tree in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. After this festive season, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.


If you’re lucky enough to have access to a big wood-chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Wood-chip is great as a decorative landscaping material. But if you really want to do great things for the environment (and if you have access to a lot of Christmas trees), you could make a bioreactor to denitrify water. Nitrates are put on farms across the world to help increase crop output, but a considerable amount is washed away into lakes and rivers where it’s disastrous for fish and potentially toxic for people. A wood chip bioreactor encourages the growth of bacteria that break down the nitrates in the drainage water, reducing the amount that gets into the water supply. It's not a simple project, however. To make one, you have to dig a big trench, get the water to flow through said trench, and fill it with wood chips. More info can be found here [PDF].



If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas, get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles.


Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses.


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Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood-chip or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but as long as you don’t have to drive too many miles out of your way, Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.


After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it in a lake. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.


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