I am shopping for a Christmas tree this week. It’s cold – too cold to be hanging around a Christmas tree lot agonizing over the tree height and width that will fit in my entry. It’s my annual conundrum – how can I hang my green values on a tree and still get that holiday feeling.
I have tried other types of more sustainable rituals to replace my childhood balsam pine tradition over the years. Well, to be perfectly honest, my household was more of a 1960’s white flocked beauty, which I strayed from as soon as I was able. In my 20’s, back during that last whopper of a recession in the early 1980’s, I went for the fragrant and pricey cut balsam pine. Not sure how I could afford it, but somehow I managed. In my mind, it was the antithesis to a chemically flocked tree!
There was the tiny pre-lighted tree when I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in my 30’s, that I placed on an end table. That pint sized tree got high marks for low resource and energy use. It was also a no mess, no stress set up and take down, but the presents didn’t fit well under it. In my 40’s, I moved to a house and a friend gave me a recycled artificial (read: “PVC plastic”) tree that I painstakingly assembled and then decorated. The price was right. The eco sentiment was almost perfect being recycled and all (if you ignore the PVC content and made in China thing), but at the end of the day, it was plastic and the smell was all wrong (so was the PVC). It ended up at a neighbor’s house avoiding the landfill once again.
When I moved downtown, I tried a real cut tree, once again, this time perched out on the balcony. Unfortunately, the needle mess that I was trying to avoid, was merely delayed until I dragged the dry frozen tree through my living room in January. It was from a local and organic tree farm so I was supporting a local farmer. The waste hauler told me that it was turned into mulch and used as compost – ah, the green and almost natural circle of life.
So what to do this year? I did a little research to find out if there is anything new in sustainable tree trends this holiday. Here is what I came up with – some new and some recycled ideas:
Buy a potted tree
Go to any home and garden store or nursery and pick up a potted tree (think Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree). You can decorate it, hang on to it and then plant it once the tundra melts in the spring. Be careful to plant it on your own property or ask permission if you live in a homeowner’s association. If you don't have a spot to plant it, try donating it to a school or sending to summer at a friend’s cabin.
Rent a tree
Giving a tree a chance to see another Christmas is the new west coast trend. At least seven companies or environmental groups are offering a rental service. The Living Christmas Tree Co is expecting to rent out more than 1000 trees this year. If you’re lucky, you can even adopt the same tree over and over for several years and watch it grow. Watch for this concept to catch on in our area.
Visit an organic Christmas tree farm
Cut your own organic Christmas tree that was grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers; it’s better for the soil and water supply. To find organic growers go to www.localharvest.com and do a zip code search for your area.
Buy a tree from an Arctic explorer
Will Steger is selling trees that come from the undergrowth of a forest in Northern Minnesota. “Clearing younger, more flammable firs from beneath the taller, old-growth red and white pines makes wildfires less likely to burn out of control and makes space for more pine seedlings to grow”, according to a recent article from the Star Tribune “Xmas Trees Gone Wild” by Kristin Tillotson
Bring home and decorate a dead branch
I know that this may sound morbid and unChristmas, but there is a ton of eco cache that clings to a lovely birch branch that has fallen in the woods. Haul it home, put it in a tree stand and light it up with white LED’s. Some friends did it and it's their favorite tree ever. I plan to do this next year. It is contemporary, elegant and sophisticated. Once the holidays are over, haul it back into the woods returning it to nature’s natural cycle.
Forget the tree all together
Who needs a tree at all, let Mother Nature be your holiday designer. Nothing says the holidays better than pine cones, cedar boughs and pomegranates. Use them on your table, mantel, your guest bath or any place you want that holiday feeling and smell. The entire family can get involved with a trip to the woods, Farmer’s Market or neighborhood garden store in search of the best castoffs that the earth has to offer.
Let me know your green tree ideas. In the meantime, Seasons Greenings!