The holiday season is once again upon us. In many parts of the world people erect and decorate Christmas trees as part of their celebration. The Christmas tree does has deep symbolic meaning for various cultures and religion but in this day and age it has also become highly commercialized. Don’t worry, this article isn’t about the commercialization of Christmas – I am not naive to think this site can change the nature of the beast. We can however discuss how to best act responsibly by discussing various green Christmas tree options.
Readers of this site know that we strive to balance sustainable choices and our personal finances. When we examine sustainable Christmas trees we do find that our lifestyle choices and most prudent personal finance decisions come into conflict.
The greenest Christmas tree option: A Potted Tree
Keep a tree in your home. Yes, a tree. Trees are great plants to own. Trees not only produce oxygen, which us homo-sapiens all need. trees also absorb pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. So once you are convinced having a tree indoors why not decorate it at Christmas? Your annual costs will be low after the initial investment and you will need to water the tree regularly.
The downside? Chances are good you won’t want to keep a fir tree indoors. Even the Fraser Fir, which has excellent needle retention, is going to shed needles leaving you to clean up after it. So you may not get a “traditional” tree in terms of shape, scent and nostalgia.
How about renting a Christmas tree?
Believe it or not you can rent a Christmas tree. The trees can be rented locally. The tree harvester digs up a tree of your choosing and pots it in a large vessel. Delivered right to your door without traversing the country to get to you seems like a pretty sustainable Christmas tree option. You can order the tree via Internet shopping which reduces some carbon miles scouring the area for a great tree.
Here in Ontario you can rent a tree that is locally harvested. The trees are usually two to four feet tall and are delivered to your door before the holidays and you can have the company return afterward to retrieve it. The best part however is that you can keep the tree by forfeiting the $30 security deposit. An additional benefit to using a tree service is that they often give a percentage to a local charity. Starting at $80, renting a tree is not the cheapest option but it does have benefit of low environmental impact. So if you do keep the tree, the next green Christmas tree option may work well for you!
Decorate an outdoor tree
Who needs tinsel when you have the real thing: snow. Sure, placing presents under the tree make not be practical but if you have a tree that is within view of your living space you can still experience the warmth of a decorated tree. There is no additional cost associated with decorating an outdoor tree aside from decoration replacement (damaged or stolen).
Harvest a tree
The old standby. Trees around here cost $50-$80 to harvest a locally grown tree. There is something to be said about giving an experience, especially when children are involved. Harvesting a tree means an annual expense and I can’t help but wonder about the forestation issues that arise when trees are grown and harvested repeatedly on the same piece of land. The plus side, you are supporting a local business and the tree can be recycled (turned into mulch) by many municipalities. Christmas tree farms also help reduce carbon monoxide in the air we breathe.
Use a tree lot
This is not a very green Christmas tree option. Sure, you support a person working locally but these sorts of temporary businesses end at Christmas and very often the operators work for large corporations which do not reside in your community. The trees sold on lots are also often shipped in from far and wide – a lot of Co2 is burned to get trees to where I live as they are shipped in from the East Coast. Cost: $30-$80.
Artificial trees are the least green Christmas tree option
The issues with artificial trees are numerous.
- Made in China. A bunch of fossil fuel is required to ship an artificial tree.
- Made in China. A bunch of fossil fuel is required to produce artificial trees.
- Trees that have lost their “luster” and thrown away, filling landfills.
- Artificial trees are manufactured using a polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), which is a petroleum-derived plastic that is non-renewable and polluting. When PVC is produced nasty carcinogens, such as vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride and dioxin are emitted into the air.
- You need space to store the tree 11 months of the year.