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January 20, 2018 / 6:00 am EST


Low-Impact Christmas: Finding the Right Tree
Low-Impact Christmas: Finding the Right TreeDec 5, 2008

For many people, Christmas is a season of time-honored traditions. The centerpiece of these traditions, in most homes, is a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Today, as environmental concerns loom, it is just as important to have a “green” Christmas as a traditional Christmas. The verdict is in: it is better for the environment to have a real tree. Artificial Christmas trees are usually made of plastics that have toxic by-products in production, will not biodegrade, and are often made far away in countries such as China. Reports of lead and other unsafe contaminants in plastic products, combined with the obvious travel dilemma make the artificial tree a questionable choice.

GreenPromise is a good website for finding organically grown, pesticide-free, live trees in your area. Many people do not, however, have the space in their yard or the ability to re-plant a live tree. If that describes you and you are lucky enough to live in the Portland or San Diego areas, you can rent a Christmas tree that will be dropped off and picked up right at your door.

Adopt-A-Christmas Tree in San Diego offers live-tree delivery and post-Christmas pick-up complete with singing and dancing elves. “We pick up the trees after New Years and donate them to families whose homes and yards have been ravaged by forest fire,” explains Christine McDannell, Director of Adopt-A-Tree. Local environmentalist Michael McClure formed the company three years ago with plans to license the business across the country as early as the 2009 Christmas season. “We get calls every year from Boston, Colorado, Texas, all across the U.S.,” says Ms. McDannell, “and our goal is definitely to make it possible to have potted Christmas trees in everyone’s homes. That’s what we’re working toward.”

Even a cut evergreen tree is still more sustainable than an artificial one. The trees contribute to the ecosystem while they grow and will subsequently biodegrade back into the soil. You can aid this process by finding Christmas tree recycling events near your home. Just don’t throw it away: nearly 28.6 real trees are thrown away every year to fill up landfills where, sealed from water and air, they take decades to decompose and return their nutrients to the soil.

Another option is to go for a modern look with a Christmas tree made from recycled products, such as the “Green X-Mas Tree” by artist and designer Buro North, or by participating in Celbri-Tree, an online auction of trees designed by celebrities such as Brooke Shields and Eva Longoria-Parker whose proceeds go to benefit Keep America Beautiful.

If you already have an artificial tree, use it, or donate it to a community center or organization that can pass it on for you – same for old ornaments and decorations. There’s no better way to enjoy the spirit of the season!

By Carly Dobbins-Bucklad


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