Support Local Farmers
Until recently, Christmas trees were almost exclusively cut from the forest. Today, they are a crop. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), "North American real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada."
Christmas trees are a renewable resource, they are recyclable, and
like all trees, they provide lots of much-needed oxygen while growing
in the earth. According to the NCTA, there are some "500,000 acres in
production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.", and "each acre
provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people." That’s great
news for those of us ranting away our daily allotment.
Crop Christmas trees provide a source of income for our farmers,
which means that buying a real Christmas tree each year, especially
when purchased from a local farm, serves to support your local economy,
and the local growers who work there. Those concerned about pesticides
and fertilizers can find increasing numbers of organic Christmas tree
farms. There are even farmers offering Christmas trees online for home
To find local Christmas trees check out your local farms, ask your
neighbors, check the NCTA website, or simply Google "Christmas trees
Reduce Waste and Recycle
As a renewable resource, real Christmas trees come full circle back
to the soil through community recycling programs. Local organizations
collect, chip, and mulch those lovely green honeys who make our homes
so cheery and bright for the season. You can even toss that Christmas
tree carcass out in your own backyard, and let Nature do her thing in
her own sweet time.
Fake, plastic Christmas trees are an entirely different breed of
cat. I won’t bore you with all the toxins in these toilet-bowl-brush
descendents. You can read about it yourselves at the NCTA page on fake trees.
Plastic trees can only go one place when they are done – the trash –
and we all know that story. Ranters can comment of course, but the
only strong cases I can find for using a fake, plastic Christmas tree
would be for those with allergies to evergreens, and those who live in
dwellings which prohibit Christmas trees. Fake, plastic trees are not
an environmentally-sound alternative to real Christmas trees.
And for the love of light, don’t put your live Christmas tree out
for the trash collection! Be prepared by planning now for your tree
disposal. If you do not wish to reuse it in your own garden, look for
a local recycling program at your city/borough/county/community
website, your local department of public works website, or your local
Boy Scout office or community center.
You can also get fast information at Earth911 – Treecycling, or by calling the Earth911 United States Environmental Recycling Hotline at 1-877-EARTH911 or 1-800-CLEANUP.
I can hear all you tree-huggers now, "But how can you, Jade, an
advocate of forest conservation and self-proclaimed tree-lover, support
the use of real cut Christmas trees!?" My friends, apart from the
benefits you’ve read above, there is yet another reason to love real
Christmas trees: live Christmas trees!
Each year at my home we plant an evergreen tree in our yard for
Christmas. This tree usually comes in the house for a week, is
decorated, be-gifted, and then planted a few days later (provided the
ground isn’t frozen). Apart from a few basic considerations for a live
evergreen tree in winter (which you can read about at the NCTA page for live tree care tips),
it is incredibly easy and rewarding to use a healthy, growing evergreen
to celebrate the season many times over, both in the home and in the
More Green Alternatives
Don’t have room in your yard for another tree? Don’t celebrate
Christmas? If you are not able or willing to plant a live tree in your
yard, you can share it with your neighbor, donate it to your local
school, or simply balance the fresh cut tree in your living room with a
donation to American Forests.
American Forests allows donors to contribute to a variety of ReLeaf Programs, or through the Trees for the Holidays program,
for which every $1.00 plants one tree. If you select the latter
option, the beneficiary receives a nifty little certificate with a
message like, "Happy Winter to the Greeny Family! American Forests has
planted 25 trees in your name. Love, Jade."
I know I said I wouldn’t slog you with my philosophical musings, but
there is something ineffable and wonderful about the presence of a
green, fresh tree in the home during the dark and dormant months. This
"je ne sais quoi" is part of the magic of the evergreen, which reminds
us that the sun will return next season to coax forth our gardens once
again. Leave the plastic on the shelves, and go get your hands dirty!
Images photographed by Jade L. Blackwater, © 2006.