Besides being known as a spiritual guru, I spent over a decade as an environmental guru as well. This time of year the question I use to get asked the most, and still often do, is “What is the greenest choice for a Christmas tree?”
The answer is; A real organic potted evergreen tree that can be replanted in the spring. If you can, try to find an organic version because most tree farms use chemical pesticides and herbicides to protect and maintain a perfect commercial crop. These chemicals leach into our ground and water supply and pollute rivers, streams and our drinking water. The same goes for a cut Christmas tree. If you can’t afford the extra money for a potted live tree, then still try to find a responsible organic tree farm. Do you really want to bring all those extra chemicals like chlorpyriforus, a suspected neurotoxin, into your house?
Some people worry about losing another tree in the natural world if they buy a cut Christmas tree. Most tree farms replant one or more trees for every tree that gets cut down. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. So don’t worry about that. Just remember that when you cut down any tree, all the CO2 it has store up in its lifetime is then released back into the atmosphere contributing to global warming. So buy a live potted tree if you can.
With a live potted tree, you need to remember that once you bring it into the warm indoors it has to stay there until the warm spring returns. If you put it outside too soon it will most likely die in the cold weather. If you just can’t stand to have a tree indoors until April, then place it in a moderately warm garage, sunroom, or basement that does not get below 40°F. For those of you who are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, you can put the tree outside near the house and keep it potted to reuse next year. If you have no room in your yard for another tree, or live in an apartment, you can donate the tree to a park, school, church or neighbor come spring.
As far as plastic trees go, if you already have one than great, use it forever, because that’s how long it will last if you dump it into a land fill…FOREVER! Please don’t by a new one that will consume tons of fresh water and energy to make from plastic chemicals like Polyvinyl Chloride, (PVC), and then shipped from far away foreign lands. If you’d rather use a plastic tree and need a new one, look in your local thrift stores, or at freecycle.org, craigslist or ebay for a used one. If you have an old one to get rid of, donate it or sell it at any of the above places or go to Earth911.org to see where you can recycle it in your area.
Lisa Alexander, LEED AP, “Copyright (c) 2008 Green Life, Inc., All Rights Reserved.”
First published in “Connections” Magazine December, 2008