Christmas tree-hugging (Day 271)…

charlie brown tree

OK, it’s officially one month until Christmas, which means I’m allowed to start posting about how I’m greening my holiday season! What’s that, you say? You’re sick of stupid Christmas already? Me too!

But now that I’m almost three-quarters of the way through this challenge, I’m especially desperate for ideas and Christmas is just chock full of opportunities to be eco-friendly.

Number one on the list is, of course, the tree. Although I love the smell of pine, it’s just a wee bit hypocritical to insist upon being a tree-hugger, then insist on chopping one down. So instead, I’m going the artificial route.

Now, if I were truly an environmentalist, I’d have no tree whatsoever, or try to assemble one from twigs and bits of green scrap paper from around the house. But it just so happens that last year I got one of those hugely popular Charlie Brown Christmas Trees, sold at Urban Ourfitters, which comes in a little box reading, “This tree needs you” (they also sell a crooked Dr. Seuss Whoville Tree). It’s super cute, and sad, which for some reason makes me happy. So I’ll be reusing that.

While it’s very tempting to go out and buy a second tree, or at the very least get some other ornaments to hang on the remaining branches, I think I’m just going to keep it minimalist this year, saving my money and the carbon cost of manufacturing and shipping all these holiday doodads.

30 Responses to Christmas tree-hugging (Day 271)…

  1. dinsky says:

    I like going the potted tree route, although this year, my tree is no more than a little wee twig, come spring, I’ll be planting it outdoors somewhere and letting it thrive!

  2. The Postie says:

    Why isn’t a once live tree a green option? The tree has been sequestering carbon and producing oxygen for 7 or so years and a new one will be planted in it’s place. Fake trees are made in factories far away using plastic and metal that can’t be recycled. I chose real.

  3. kate says:

    I have a tiny little fake tree from when my office was somewhere else — now in my house. But I also can see having a real tree. Where I am, the trees need thinning and trees are grown for this very purpose. In my city, they are recycled and used as mulch.

  4. Erin says:

    Awww, I LOVE your Charlie Brown tree! Besides, making do with what you already own is ALWAYS the most environmentally-friendly option. Maybe you could find an overly-decorated doghouse in the neighborhood and steal some more ornaments for your tree. 🙂

  5. LG Adam says:

    I’m growing my own tree this year from a little sapling that came in the post at work. With only a month to go I’m not sure how big it’ll be though!

  6. Hellcat13 says:

    I’m debating real/faux this year, as well. I was actually considering a Charlie Brown tree until I saw the insane 30$ charge to ship to Canada (on top of the 6$ shipping charge!) Sheesh. Maybe I’ll forgo the whole tree thing for another year.

  7. Kathryn says:

    When I was a child, my parents decided that a “real” (i.e. “cut”) tree was a bad idea, so they began yet another tradition that marked my family as unbearably weird (what can I say, I was a ridiculously conformist kid). The first year’s tree was a juniper, which was a least vaguely Christmas-ish, but after that they gave up the pretense and bought an oak tree. It was actually beautiful all decorated for the holiday, and then it went in front yard, where it proceeded to vex my father no end over all the leaves it dropped.

    One year we had a lemon tree (gorgeous… it even had baby lemons on it). The worst year was the peach tree… it arrived from the nursery with four leaves on it, and they all fell off on Christmas eve. Talk about depressing…

    Then, we moved to Australia. Halfway up the west coast, Christmas trees have to be shipped in from very far away, and are horribly expensive. The “normal” alternative was of course the artificial tree, but such abominations were against our religion so my father went out in the bush and found a hefty dead branch, which he brought home and stuck in a bucket full of pebbles. Mom and I decorated it with bundles of beach grass, seashells and red ribbons. It actually looked kind of sweet, and was such a topic of conversation all over town that strangers kept coming to our door asking if they could see the “Chrissy” tree.

    There are always more options than “real vs. fake”.

  8. Kate says:

    My DH stumbled upon a little secret: a somewhat local state forest sells permits to cut Christmas trees, 1 tree =$5. They don’t advertise it because it would result in too many trees being cut down, but they direct us to certain areas within the forest and use it to help thin their forests a bit as part of a controlled process. By nature, it’s free of any pesticides and no shaping was done so therefore there were no emissions from gas-powered saws and whatnot during its life.

    We doubled up this year and went with my parents, halving the emissions from driving and got them one as well. We also supported the local, small town economy with a great meal.

    I know this isn’t as green as a live tree, but we’ll move to those once we have a yard we can plant the trees in. Now we just need to find a place to recycle it once Christmas is over.

  9. blah says:

    Don’t forget about the home made decorations Vanessa!

    Also, I saw Seinfeld the other night, and your post reminds me of the Festivus episode. If you’re going to get sick of Christmas, do the “Festivus for the rest of us” thing!

  10. Elisette says:

    To be cheap, I shop the second hand stores for Christmas decorations. This also means things are being reused, and usually anything I pay is going towards a charity of some sort.

  11. Greenpa says:

    Having just posted a counter opinion on Crunchy Churken, now I have to be the opposition here!

    Hey, we used to make much of our income growing and selling Christmas trees!! Are you telling me you’re anti-Tree Farmer???


    Seriously. 95% of Christmas trees are grown AS A CROP- on land that other wise would be planted to something FAR less environmentally friendly- like soybeans- or cows. For 10 years, the bunnies and birds thrive in and around the tree. When it’s harvested, they plant another one- and it goes on.

    Mostly Christmas tree growers grow them because their land is not so good for other crops- steep, or droughty.

    So how many farmers does your artificial tree support, year by year?? hah???

    After Christmas, many municipalities turn the natural trees either into mulch; or sink them in a pond for fish and frog habitat. And your fake tree??

    Hiss- boo to artificial trees!! 🙂

  12. Vanessa says:

    Haha, OK Greenpa, touché!! Point taken! But you can’t say hiss-boo to reusing…

  13. Esme says:

    My uncle told me a wonderful story from one of the first years they spent in Canada after emigrating from Scotland. They didn’t have money for a tree, so my grandpa took an old broomstick, drilled angled holes in it, and then collected all the unwanted cut-off boughs from the stores that sold them and would trim them back. He took those boughs home and inserted the branches into the holes in the broomstick (which he placed in a bucket of sand). It looked (and smelled!)like a real Christmas tree, used up the unwanted branches and didn’t cost him a cent.

  14. ina says:

    My parents sometimes bought potted Christmas trees, which they then planted in our garden. That lead to a fun phenomenon: Years later, we could cut those same trees from our yard and re-use them. I’m not really an avid tree killer – but chopping down a tree in the snow felt rather soothing and archaic. Loved it!

  15. rejin says:

    “Why isn’t a once live tree a green option?”
    Careful where you get it, I read the other day that tree farms use up to 40 different kinds of pesticides. I would think it would take some kind of petro-based fertilizer, too, to make the same ground produce tree after tree. (Greenpa, please correct me if I’m mistaken.) If the land is too poor for other crops, reverting it to an actual forest would seem the most earth-friendly option.
    Cutting your own from a “managed” forest sounds nicer, but forests managed themselves for millions of years without human interference, so they probably do pretty well without us.

  16. Carreen says:

    I have a green option for Christmas! The tumbleweed tree. I live in a pretty flat area and tumbleweeds are not hard to come by. We did this one year as a surprise for my sister. We picked a really big one from the side of the road, used some of that canned snow (although I’m not sure that’s too green) and then put red and silver balls on it. It was really quite lovely. I suppose for a greener option you could use some of that low/no VOC paint and paint your tumbleweed white or silver or gold.

    There’s a really big tumbleweed tree in Phoenix, AZ made from about a zillion tumbleweeds all stacked up. They paint it and light it and it’s really pretty!

    If you can’t stand the thought of killing a live tree, or using a plastic one, go with something already dead! Who knows, maybe you can even buy tumbleweeds online. Seems like you can get everything else.

  17. Hellcat13 says:

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll just decorate my hibiscus. It’s taller than I am and needs to be trimmed back, but perhaps I’ll wait until after Noel and have it serve double duty!

  18. Ohh … we have a fake tree bought … uh … many years ago (actually we bought a different one and traded it with my mom because hers was bigger and her house is smaller). About 10 years. I don’t know when we’ll need to replace it, either. I just couldn’t stomach killing a tree every year … oh, and there was the year when our friends almost set our (dead) Christmas tree on fire at a party. Yikes.

    But my husband’s family, not from greenness but from disorganization, used to just hang ornaments on the window shutters, the mantel, wires strung on the wall, whatever, and call it “a Christmas-like area.” There’s a greener option for sure!

  19. Beth Terry says:

    I would not go out and buy a fake tree made from plastic. But if I already owned a fake tree, I’d probably go ahead and use it until it wore out.

    That said, I don’t see anything wrong with buying a live tree in a pot or even a chopped down live tree from an organic Christmas tree farm. Those trees are grown to be harvested and replanted.

    But you’re right, reusing is probably the best solution… as long as your fake tree is not off-gassing something noxious into your abode.

  20. emily says:

    It’s possible to grow your own trees without fertilizer, too. My father began growing Christmas trees in the backyard about 15 years ago or more, and my parents haven’t had to buy one since. It has turned into a normal part of their gardening. Now they get so tall that my father chops off the top 5’6″ for xmas, and lets it grow back over the next few years.

    So many of the xmas trees in the US are shipped down from Canada, having already been chopped about 6 or 8 wks ahead of when they’re sold. When you have a fresh tree, its needles barely drop (less vacuuming!). Since my mother is German and we light candles on the tree (no tree- or housefires in their 37 years of marriage, just for the record), having a “wet” tree is important.

  21. Mrs. Bick says:

    Well, I do love a real tree, but for many reasons we do not chose that as an option at this point in our lives. We do have an artificial tree, and have used it repeatedly for many, many years. It is set up in the main living area of our home, for all to enjoy.

    I also have a little bit of our family’s history… an aluminum tree. You know, the shiny silver ones? It was my grandmother’s (one of 3!), and putting it up brings back fond and happy memories from my childhood. And really, with this tree being in use for well over 40 years, I think we have done well in our simple pursuit to incorporate our history and traditions into our family’s growing “green movement”. I know many think they are tacky, odd and just plain ugly, but our silver tree stands decked out in red glass ornaments in a quiet corner of our bedroom, out of the harm of our 3 children. And it brings a smile to my face every time I view it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  22. megs says:

    Do you know anyone who is pruning an evergreen hedge or shrub? Decorating a large arrangement of conifer boughs (cedar, juniper, etc.) can look very festive and be practical if you live in a small space.

  23. blah says:

    I’m still pulling for the Festivus pole. You don’t need to water the darn thing and you can hang clothes from it!

  24. SP says:

    One Christmas, when I was a little tyke we were travelling some place warm for Chritsmas and my parents made me a brown paper bag tree. As I recall they decorated it with images cut out from some used christmas cards and beer caps and hung it on the wall. This could be a totally re-use sort of project. Good luck green elf.

  25. Greenpa says:

    rejin – ” I read the other day that tree farms use up to 40 different kinds of pesticides. I would think it would take some kind of petro-based fertilizer, too, to make the same ground produce tree after tree. (Greenpa, please correct me if I’m mistaken.) If the land is too poor for other crops, reverting it to an actual forest would seem the most earth-friendly option.”

    Your points are good, but not always complete. SOME tree farms do indeed use pesticides, but very few small tree farmers do- those tend to be the big industrial types. If you buy your tree at a farmers market, you can ask the farmer.

    One of the benefits of growing Christmas trees is that almost never do they need to be fertilized. One of the reasons I quit growing them is that my soils are naturally quite fertile- and the trees grow TOO fast, making them leggy and unsalable- unless you “shear” them, very consistently. Huge amount of work there- profit way down.

    Revert to forest- sure, a lovely idea, but not an option if you have a family to feed, as most real farmers do- you need income. Letting your sandy fields go to forest usually means no income for 40 years. In fact, many Christmas tree farms wind up going back to forest eventually- when the market shifts, or the farmer gets tired of it- there the trees are, and the wildlife, that will start planting all the other tree species available. Re-clearing the land for row crops is rarely economic.

    Mrs. Bick- sure, memories are what Christmas is about- even if they’re aluminum!

    I had some friends come for a tree once- and they didn’t like my lovely Scotch or white pines, nor the spruces. Their childhood had been poor- and the tree they remembered was an Eastern red cedar their father had been able to cut for free in the woods. Nobody uses them for Christmas, really. I found them one in our woods- but the only problem was it was brown, not green, for Christmas, as red cedars usually are. I made them happy with my suggestion they could take green food-color, mix it in plain water, and spray it on with any old spray bottle. It worked fine, and they had a great Christmas, with the look and smell they remembered. Only green this time.

  26. SP says:

    So David Suzuki cast his vote on the tree debate. To read all about it follow this link.

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