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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Greenest Tree: Go Natural for Christmas

Dec 02, 2014 11:56PM

The star of many families’ seasonal décor – the annual Christmas tree – need not become an environmental burden if selected with care. While some individuals have strong opinions about the virtues of a natural tree versus an artificial one, each approach has its pros and cons. In general, live Christmas trees seem preferable as a renewable resource that does not contain plastic or potentially toxic components.

The National Christmas Tree Association points out that at least 85 percent of the plastic trees sold in the United States are imported from China and may contain toxic chemicals. On the other hand, evergreen trees can be grown in all 50 states and may be replaced as quickly as they are cut. When considering purchasing a real tree, however, there are some other environmental factors to consider.

How far did the tree travel? The distance traveled from its source impacts the carbon footprint because of the fuel expended to transport it. Most vendors can tell you the state of origin, but what about pesticides that were used during the growing? Conventional Christmas tree farms are reputed to use abundant pesticides to keep their products looking picture-perfect. Ask if the seller is the grower and, if not, find out who knows the answer. Typically, a temporary sidewalk or street corner seller may not know; a better bet can be a u-pick-it tree farm (see below for local Christmas tree growers).

Put a fresh-cut tree in water within a few hours after trimming the base a flat one-half to one inch; some people add an aspirin to the water to enhance absorption.

According to the 2009 National Geographic Green Guide, Americans annually discard 30 million cut trees after the holidays, with the wood wasted in landfills. Alternatively, a program in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, collects them to combat coastal erosion.

Locate tree growers by state and learn how to dispose of trees responsibly at PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org. GreenPromise.com publishes a list of organic Christmas tree farmers at Tinyurl.com/65oqh9.

The decision to buy a living tree to be replanted requires more planning than choosing a fresh-cut tree. The size and type of tree that will fit the indoor space must be considered, but attention needs to be paid to where the tree will be planted once it goes outdoors. Make sure there is a suitable place to plant the living tree prior to purchasing it, to make sure there will be room for the tree to grow. When choosing a living tree, be sure to keep it properly hydrated while inside and relocate it in the yard after the celebrations conclude. Find detailed steps for care and planting from WikiHow.com at Tinyurl.com/6dyauj and Tinyurl.com/3rj582n.