December 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm
Sustainable Living Guest Blogger: Kate Ruffing
Oh the sacred and sought after holiday family Christmas Tree; so much to consider when selecting this hallmark symbol of the holidays. While I have always enjoyed the smell and look of a real tree, there was a pang of guilt when using a cut tree. Knowing that it takes 6-7 years for the tree to grow, and then it only stays in our home for six weeks, fills me with environmental remorse. Artificial trees are an option, but the negative environmental impact of all that plastic and energy consumed when shipping from overseas is something has always been a turn-off.
So after some extensive research and internal family debate, we made the choice four years ago to start a new tradition of having a living tree in our home every year for the holidays. This has now evolved into one of our favorite traditions and each year we look forward to not only selecting our tree, but planting it and watching it grow in our yard after the holidays.
For those of you looking for a better solution for your “O Tannenbaum” this season, we hope that one of these suggestions will work for you.
Dark Green: Choose a Live Tree
Every year, we take our holiday tree dollars to the local nursery and purchased a live Western Red Cedar. Other types of conifers that work well as living Christmas Trees are Spruce, Douglas Fir, and White Pine. Live trees come complete with a large root ball, but this is manageable to get it home with a little help from the nursery staff and a lot more twine. Once home, we “plant” the tree in a big, galvanized bucket and cover it with mulch. The tree lives in the bucket until after the holiday when it is planted somewhere in our yard. If you bring your tree indoors, ease the temperature transition by putting it in the garage for a few days before moving it inside and make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Don’t have a yard to plant the tree in? Find a friend or organization that will plant it on their property after the holiday.
Medium Green: Choose an Organic Pre-Cut Tree
Growing a commercial pre-cut tree takes time and a lot of management, including the use of herbicides, insecticides, and a lot of water that heavily impacts the environment. Luckily, there are tree-growers that have started to adopt natural and organic management practices. Seek out these organic tree farms out with a quick internet search and find out where they deliver or if you can go and cut your own at their farm. At the end of the season, make sure to properly recycle the tree and consider offsetting the cutting of this tree by re-planting another.
Light Green: Choose a Low-impact Artificial Tree
I know! It is shocking that I would even list this as a choice but it can be an acceptable one if you know what to look out for. Artificial trees do prevent the cutting of live trees, but you need to use them for 20+ years to be “carbon neutral”. If you really want to go this route, look for trees manufactured locally and without polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. I haven’t been able to find one yet that looks like your typical evergreen, but there are some innovative all-wood models that may work for you. If nothing else, save an artificial tree destined for the landfill. You can sometimes find them at garage sales or resale shops.
Enjoy the holiday this year, by greening you tree ritual and if this seems all to complicated, you can always adopt the “Festivus Pole” as your family’s new tradition.
Follow Kate Ruffing’s Sustainable Living adventures and discover solutions for your family at www.KateRuffing.com