Christmas Trees: What Would Jesus Do?

– by Maryann Khinda
 We are republishing this piece given the Christmas Season…

Is sacrificing trees for decoration rather than consumption ethically and morally responsible?  Is this act frivolous and wasteful?  Would Jesus approve?  Or are there hidden merits to cutting down Christmas trees?

In light of our socially responsible efforts, we would like to explore the pros and cons of purchasing a real vs. artificial Christmas tree this holiday season to see where the pine needles lead us.

 There are many views and thoughts on having a “real” Christmas tree. Besides the beautiful décor and terrific nostalgic smell, freshly cut Christmas trees provide additional oxygen and consume carbon dioxide in the immediate air of their surroundings.  As per Green America, Tree farms typically use barren un-farmable or rocky land to raise their Christmas trees and grow two trees to every one tree cut.  This is a sustainable method of using the land and a true benefit to having a “real” tree.

Ah, but the cons outweigh the pros.  Why do any trees need to be cut?  We are killing trees, living specimens, for a tradition…?  Here lies nothing but selfish human gain in the act of cutting down trees.  We bring these trees into our homes for a few weeks, decorate them and then use additional electricity to light them.  This is absolutely wasteful!  And not socially responsible?  After the holidays are over, the trees typically wind-up in landfills.  Most Christmas trees are brought from these mass tree farms that use pesticides.  These pesticides are in the air in your home.  If your pet drinks from the tree’s bowl, it could get sick.  Trees even breed mold, which is unhealthy to breathe and creates allergies.

We are not asking you to give up your tradition.  There are alternatives: the United Kingdom has found a unique method which we approve and give two thumbs up for as 100% sustainable – renting potted Christmas trees.  During the holiday season, customers can rent a potted freshly pruned and trimmed Christmas tree.  When the season is over, the tree will be returned and replanted until the next season.  Brilliant!  No waste!
There are also SERFs, Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farms, which raise organic Christmas trees.  Organic trees are free of harmful pesticides.  At this time SERFs are only common in the Northwest.  Please see their sitefor further details.

 If you must have a “real” Christmas tree this season, we strongly urge you to adhere to the many recycling efforts available.  Most local governments and municipalities participate in tree curbside pickups for compost and mulching.  If this is not available, there are other great ideas that are sustainable. Using your tree for firewood has mixed reviews – please make sure you do this correctly as you could ruin your chimney (see this page for details on the dangers).  There is always the easy option of throwing the tree into your backyard for your own composting.  This will, in time, improve your own garden.  Mother Earth News gives a few great suggestions:  in the winter, you can use the tree branches to protect your delicate garden and use the trunk as a post or bench.  You could also throw the tree in your lake or pond – the wildlife will thrive.

The other option is buying an “artificial” or plastic Christmas tree.  Artificial trees can be reused year after year, without waste as a whole, but these trees cannot be recycled further due to their iron and plastic structure (though there are other materials used, e.g., aluminum).  Also they contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and the production process may use a small amount of lead.  While the risk of lead poisoning is low, it increases as trees age. Though recent regulations have made trees safer.

In conclusion, we find freshly cut Christmas trees not to be as socially responsible as some of the alternatives, such as renting or purchasing potted or artificial Christmas trees.   As we like to present other opinions, Justmeans, a Sustainability website, did a write-up (Sustainability and Christmas Trees: Let’s Get Real) not too long ago stating real trees are the way to go.  If you must have a freshly cut tree, please utilize one of the recycling methods above to retain some sustainability.  Happy Holidays!

SRI, Socially Responsible trees, sustainability, Green Christmas trees. 

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