Real or Artifical Christmas Tree? Tell us about your green holidays!
Post your comments about how to have a "green" holiday - what are the best options to get that wonderful pine scent and Christmas-y feeling and still be mindful of the environment? Is there an organic tree farm near you? What are your favorite "live" Xmas tree/ holiday decoration options? Have you found an environmentally friendly artificial tree or a menorah made from sustainably farmed wood? Here's the answer from our green team:
There are a few problems with artificial trees. These include:
• Non-renewable fossil fuel chemistry, including PVC and other plastic formulations that can off-gas chemical residues
• Shipping from abroad which uses additional fuel
• The half-life of usage is not what it should be to even out the score over the lifespan – somehow, people just don’t seem to keep these trees – however we definitely appreciate and support the folks who wrote in to tell us about how they’ve kept their artificial trees for 10+ years or who put second-hand artificial trees to good use and kept them out of the landfill!
Thanks for everyone who wrote in to tell us their creative non-tree strategies - there are some alternatives to the binary – real or fake plastic tree debate! The best and most complete list of alternative suggestions was provided by Andrea Lee including bonsais, wall-hangings, make-your-own, etc. (http://www.joytotheplanet.com/3/bonus.html).
Real trees are not a perfect option: there are several common species of Christmas trees here in the United States – balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine. Douglas firs, for example, are planted as 2-4 year-old saplings and require about 1 year of growth for each foot. The impact from the tree planting is similar to industrial agriculture: fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, run-off, and shipping. Another impact is tree disposal – keep it out of the landfill!
You can minimize the impact from your real tree by:
• Buying a sustainably-farmed or an organic tree
• Buying a local tree
• Disposing of the tree with a local composting or recycling program
• Buying a living tree that you eventually plant outdoors (preferably a species native to your region!)
You may be able to find a “sustainably farmed” tree in many areas of the country. Or check Local Harvest - a directory of local farms and farmers selling sustainable wreaths, plants, and other holiday items and gifts – visit them here: http://www.localharvest.org/features/christmas.jsp
Many large cities have tree collection or drop-off and composting services – check with your local public works or sanitation department, and be sure to avoid any decorations or flocking (more on that below) that would prevent composting of the tree – these restrictions vary by program. The National Christmas Tree Association provides tree recycling info with earth911.org – but I had better luck with Google to find the service in my area. You can visit the association to learn more about where trees are grown and how - http://www.christmastree.org/home.cfm, but keep in mind that it is an industry group.
Now, back to flocking, or, that snow-like frosting applied to some trees. You can find relatively benign recipes on the web for making your own out of starch, soap flakes, and hot water. That seems pretty harmless. What is in the stuff you find at your local tree lot? – it may be some type of organic cellulose and/or a fire retardant- be sure to ask.
Other ideas and general holiday greening tips (and look for more in the comments below!):
• Avoid packaging! Use reusable bags or silk wrapping scarves or fabric – a few have gotten attention here: http://shop.posch.ca/pages/biota
• Optimize the energy saving of your holiday lighting with LED or solar-powered lights and timers
• When in doubt about additional purchases, remember, you can always get it next year, building your collection of decorations slowly over time.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!
Live Earth Green Team