You may be surprised by how much goes into that holiday tree sitting in your living room, and I’m not talking about the sparkling lights and the homemade kid ornaments. I’m referring to the environmental impact to get it from the farm to the tree lot to your fa-la-la-living room. But have you thought to rent a Christmas tree?
Each year in the US, 25- to 30-million trees are sold for festive Americans to haul home, put in stands, and decorate for everyone to enjoy for about a month. That one tree may take five to six years to grow. Holiday tree farms use a lot of pesticides and fertilizers to grow that tree. Those pesticides and fertilizers pollute our waterways and land and can affect wildlife. And then after the holidays, assuming there’s no “tree-cycling” program available, some of these trees wind up in landfills. And since coniferous trees aren’t grown everywhere in the world, that large, colorful decoration taking up residence by the living room window may have traveled hundreds of miles to get to you. I don’t really need to go into the details of the environmental impact of that long journey, do I?
Why am I making such a big deal about trees? They’re really important to our environment. One single farmed tree absorbs one ton of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime. When you consider the millions of trees growing in tree farms each year, just imagine how much CO2 is being absorbed! In addition, every acre of trees produces enough daily oxygen for eighteen people. And every time a tree is harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
Here’s how you can have a beautiful holiday tree while also being friendly to the environment:
- Adopt, or purchase, or rent a Christmas tree with its roots. Yeah, that’s a thing! Some tree farms will sell you a tree you can replant yourself or return to them at the end of the holiday. They’ll nurture the tree until the following year or plant it in a local park, at local watersheds, or at a school. Some companies will even allow you to take home the same tree year after year! I love this idea. I feel better knowing no tree actually had to be cut down.
- Find a local organic tree farm. If you want a cut tree, you can at least ensure no pesticides or chemicals were used. This is better for the environment and for you. Nobody wants to breathe in the chemicals from a tree sitting in their home!
- Buy a potted plant. Get one large enough and full enough, and you can even decorate it. When the holidays are over, you can replant it in your yard or keep it in your home year-round as a lovely decoration. If you go with this option, remember to buy one indigenous to your region and that will fit in your yard once it’s fully-grown.
- If you’re a book-lover, you can create a Christmas tree using books. You’ve probably seen the pictures on Pinterest. They can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Find some inspiration here.
- No tree or plant at all. Yes, this is really an option! You can decorate the silhouette of a tree using lights on your wall. Or, go the Charlie Brown route and put a red ornament on a simple tree branch.
You’ll notice I didn’t offer the option of an artificial tree. Those are usually made from PVC and sprayed with fire retardant chemicals. In addition, PVC releases VOCs –volatile organic compounds– which are gases that can irritate your eyes, nose, and lungs. Newswise does a great job of explaining why fake is not necessarily better.
Obviously, the ideal choice would be finding a local organic tree farm that rents or gives you a living tree. But that’s not a real-world option for some people who may not live in the right climate or in an area that offers such a service. Just do the best you can do, and keep the environment in mind while you’re celebrating.
Personally, I couldn’t imagine a Christmas without a tree. It’s the smell, the sight — it just makes it feel like Christmas! But I also want to do whatever I can to help the environment. With these tips, I can and so can you! For more ideas on how to have a “green” Christmas, check out some of my other seasonal blog posts here, including how to make some Chocolate Almond Bark!