Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's the Right Choice for Eco-Oriented Christmas Trees?

We used to buy cut trees for Christmas. Then my sister gave me her artificial tree that she didn't want anymore -- we've used him for about 10 years. But now Mr. Artificial Tree is showing his age. I'm afraid I'm going to have to get rid of him -- and unfortunately I don't think my recycling center will take him, though I'll check.

So, what's next?

Well, it's really hard to find a completely non-toxic, PVC-free artificial tree. So I think we're done with artificial trees for the time being.

A live tree isn't a good option because I don't have a place on my property for the little guy -- I wish there were a city program that would take in live trees and plant them after the holidays. That would be a great idea!

The third option I have is a cut tree. My concern has been that the tree is harvested from a responsible forest. I also have had some concerns about bringing in bacteria and mold from a cut tree into my home, but artificial trees also bring in molds and bacteria from my garage -- having been stored there for nearly 12 months. So, I think it's an equal problem.

There is a great website from the National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there seems to be an association for everything these days!) with info at http://www.christmastree.org/. On their site you can find out how cut Christmas trees benefit the environment -- benefits include Christmas tree farms absorbing carbon dioxide, stabilizing soil, and providing refuge for wildlife; these trees are also a renewable resource, whereas unrecyclable artificial trees made from petroleum are not.

The Smithsonian Institute has also promoted cut or live trees, noting that you could look for additional bonuses -- like a cut-tree supplier that grew the trees organically or at least with Integrated Pest Management (IHP) practices (this translates into very little harmful pesticide use), such as using ladybugs to kill aphids.

So, this year I'm going to get a cut tree, buy myself a new string of LED lights, and not spray snow or use tinsel on the tree (fake snow or tinsel would make my cut tree unrecyclable). I'll also reuse Christmas ornaments I love. Happy Holidays!

UPDATE: What is it like to own a Christmas tree farm? Here's an interview from the Washington Post with the owner of the Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm.

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