by Guest Blogger Jade L. Blackwater, author of the  Arboreality Blog

While perusing Christmas trees at our local Linvilla Orchards this season, I heard an ecstatic boy in the next row over scream, "Look Daddy!!  REAL Christmas trees!"  Perhaps he was just an overzealous five-year-old, whose sense of memory ended at three days ago, thereby negating all memories of Christmas past.  Or perhaps this boy truly never had the pleasure of a "real" Christmas tree in his home.

Folks who know me know how much I love trees.  I could wax philosophical about the benefits of the presence of a real tree - living or cut - in the home for Christmas.  But rather than bore you with all my personal sentiments, I'd like to use the season of the festivals of lights to illuminate the tangible benefits of bringing a real tree into your home for Christmas.


Support Local Farmers

Until recently, Christmas trees were almost exclusively cut from the forest.  Today, they are a crop.  According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), "North American real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada."

Christmas trees are a renewable resource, they are recyclable, and like all trees, they provide lots of much-needed oxygen while growing in the earth.  According to the NCTA, there are some "500,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.", and "each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people."  That's great news for those of us ranting away our daily allotment.

Crop Christmas trees provide a source of income for our farmers, which means that buying a real Christmas tree each year, especially when purchased from a local farm, serves to support your local economy, and the local growers who work there.  Those concerned about pesticides and fertilizers can find increasing numbers of organic Christmas tree farms.  There are even farmers offering Christmas trees online for home delivery!

Reduce Waste and Recycle

As a renewable resource, real Christmas trees come full circle back to the soil through community recycling programs.  Local organizations collect, chip, and mulch those lovely green honeys who make our homes so cheery and bright for the season.  You can even toss that Christmas tree carcass out in your own backyard, and let Nature do her thing in her own sweet time.

Fake, plastic Christmas trees are an entirely different breed of cat.  I won't bore you with all the toxins in these toilet-bowl-brush descendents.  You can read about it yourselves at the NCTA page on fake trees. Plastic trees can only go one place when they are done - the trash - and we all know that story.  Ranters can comment of course, but the only strong cases I can find for using a fake, plastic Christmas tree would be for those with allergies to evergreens, and those who live in dwellings which prohibit Christmas trees.  Fake, plastic trees are not an environmentally-sound alternative to real Christmas trees.

And for the love of light, don't put your live Christmas tree out for the trash collection!  Be prepared by planning now for your tree disposal.  If you do not wish to reuse it in your own garden, look for a local recycling program at your city/borough/county/community website, your local department of public works website, or your local Boy Scout office or community center.

You can also get fast information at Earth911 - Treecycling, or by calling the Earth911 United States Environmental Recycling Hotline at 1-877-EARTH911 or 1-800-CLEANUP.

Plant Trees

I can hear all you tree-huggers now, "But how can you, Jade, an advocate of forest conservation and self-proclaimed tree-lover, support the use of real cut Christmas trees!?"  My friends, apart from the benefits you've read above, there is yet another reason to love real Christmas trees: live Christmas trees!

Each year at my home we plant an evergreen tree in our yard for Christmas.  This tree usually comes in the house for a week, is decorated, be-gifted, and then planted a few days later (provided the ground isn't frozen).  Apart from a few basic considerations for a live evergreen tree in winter (which you can read about at the NCTA page for live tree care tips), it is incredibly easy and rewarding to use a healthy, growing evergreen to celebrate the season many times over, both in the home and in the garden.

More Green Alternatives

Don't have room in your yard for another tree?  Don't celebrate Christmas?  If you are not able or willing to plant a live tree in your yard, you can share it with your neighbor, donate it to your local school, or simply balance the fresh cut tree in your living room with a donation to American Forests.

American Forests allows donors to contribute to a variety of ReLeaf Programs, or through the Trees for the Holidays program, for which every $1.00 plants one tree.  If you select the latter option, the beneficiary receives a nifty little certificate with a message like, "Happy Winter to the Greeny Family!  American Forests has planted 25 trees in your name.  Love, Jade."

I know I said I wouldn't slog you with my philosophical musings, but there is something ineffable and wonderful about the presence of a green, fresh tree in the home during the dark and dormant months.  This "je ne sais quoi" is part of the magic of the evergreen, which reminds us that the sun will return next season to coax forth our gardens once again.  Leave the plastic on the shelves, and go get your hands dirty!

Lower image by Jade L. Blackwater, © 2006.

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