Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas tree conundrum

Pretty pink treeAs many of you may know, a few years ago I chose plastic over paper (so to speak) when it came to our Christmas tree. It's a decision I wonder about every year, but the whole Christmas tree is a giant conundrum.

On one hand, the impact of growing Christmas trees isn't negligible. Unless you can find one grown organically (or sustainable) and shipped en masse close to you, there are a ton of petrochemicals involved. Fertilizers and pesticides are used for the tree during "production" and each individual driving out to the hinterlands to chop down and/or collect their own tree from the tree farm uses more gas. If they deliver near you, that certainly saves some on gas (depending on the efficiency of the trucks, of course).

On the other hand, you have the plastic, lead filled tree that was mostly likely made overseas under dubious conditions and shipped (generally by container, which is a little better) to the destination before being trucked out to your area. Needless to say the footprint of a plastic tree is no small potatoes.

We're hoping that our fake tree will last for many, many years to come. I have fond memories, too, of assembling the fake Christmas tree that I grew up with so perhaps my kids will have the same nostalgia. Although I definitely prefer the fresh-cut tree and had dreams of taking the kids out to a tree farm to U-cut a tree, it wasn't really realistic back when we bought the fake tree.

And, I must admit, this one is a snap to care for. More importantly, it already has LED lights embedded in it, so the electrical usage on it is low. Plus, since it breaks down into three pieces, I can manage it myself. Oh yeah, and really, my tree isn't flocked pink.

What kind of tree (if you celebrate with a tree, that is) will you have this year?

48 comments:

LatigoLiz said...

We either grow and cut our home-grown tree or get a USFS permit for $15 and go cut one on USFS land where it helps to thin the existing stands of trees.

Naomi said...

We have a local pine timber plantation nearby, and the seeds from the cones mean that there are lots of wild seedlings along the roadside. So each year, DP and DD go and cut a few saplings from the side of the road and we strap them together and decorate the "tree".

It helps remove a few extra weeds (these pines are not native to australia), and we can add the saplings to the compost/woodpile when we are done with it.

And each tree is "unique" lol!

Lil said...

I love christmas trees to much to have a plastic one... I know it's bad, since we don't have any organic christmas tree sold anywhere near us. The ikea ones aren't so bad, as one can give back his tree after Christmas to have it recycled, but those trees are big ones, too huge for our tiny flat ! I guess we'll go to the nearest treeseller in town...

Kelly said...

ahh, you need to live in OZ (down under) our tradition is mainly of plastic trees! well at home with yours here!

Fleecenik Farm said...

Sometimes we cut a tree on our property and sometimes we go to a U-pick. Many farmer's in our area grow Christmas trees to supplement their income, so I can at least keep my Christmas tree local, if not organic.

Sarah said...

I have also thought a lot about this. While organic would be best, we cut down a tree at a local farm that is not organic. The carbon footprint is a consideration, but the impacts of producing plastic and the fact that it will never break down are too much for me. Also, while the real tree is alive and growing it is sequestering carbon.

karen said...

We are lucky to have many farms in our area for pick your own trees and our town collects and composts our trees after the holidays. The farms we go to do not use any chemicals. Even if I wanted a fake tree I am very allergic to the fire retardant that is used, so much so that I cannot go near the area in a store that is selling them!

Tigerlily said...

My family lives in the hinterland and actually goes out into the forest on crown land (government owned) and cuts down a tree. So the trees are organic and local. However you have to be a fan of the Charlie Brown look because the best looking tree in the forest is far from it when you get it home. (Sometimes we grab boughs from downed trees in the area to fill in the gaps...) After the season my Dad takes the tree back the forest so it provides shelter and will eventually biodegrade. I know that this isn't really an option for most people but it has become a fun family tradition.

Megan said...

My grandparents have five acres the next town over, so we always look there first. If there isn't a little tree growing in a bad position, we go to the railroad tracks and find one. Those trees have to be cut down for safety reasons, so no one seems to mind if we take one for ourselves. They don't look like store bought trees and they're usually dripping with sticky sap, but they smell incredible and are pretty guilt free.

After Christmas, we'll drag it back out to my grandparents land and sprinkle it with popcorn or bread crumbs for the birds.

Anonymous said...

I buy a tree in a pot. It lasts for 4-5 years and then I can plant it!

Tree Hugging Mama said...

I grew up with a real tree. 12 Footers that were earth friendly. Remember the days when you used to just walk into the forest behind your house, chop down a tree and drag it back to your house? I do (but then again I grew up in the country) and for every tree we took down we planted 3 new trees. Did you know you can actually grow a tree from a pine cone?
But when DH and I bought our first home, I insisted on a real tree. So I dragged everyone out in the cold drizzle and we dragged a nice looking tree home. Now in my area, we have Christmas Tree farms, so they are not shipped in. They are cut and taken home, and its not too much of a drive. I did not know however that they used fertalizers and pesticides (guess it makes sense though). The tale of the story is that everyone ended up itchy and red (something that never happened when I was a child). I thought it was the sap and an allergy, now I am wondering if it was the chemicals. At any rate after the holiday was over we bought a nice tree on clearance. It has been our tree for 9 Christmases and will be for many more years. I would like to swap out the lights for LEDs though. Maybe this clearance season :)

Cave-Woman said...

My parents have had the same plastic tree for over 30 years. It's great. It looks as good now as then and truly gives the appearance of a douglas fir. I think this tree has another 30+ years on it---and it likely will be the tree that I inherit.

Until that tree is passed down---I simply put out a small nativity. It makes me happy, doesn't take up too much space, and helps me get ready for the arrival of that special baby. (:

I have noticed when I go to the Salvation Army Store, that they often have a few good used Christmas trees. Worth a look for those that want a plastic tree, but that don't want to buy any new plastic.

Aimee said...

I buy a live tree and plant it. Even when I lived in the city, I did this every three or four years until I used up my lot - or as much of it as I wanted covered in evergreens. Years that I didn't have a live tree, we either constructed a tree out of branches (not easy, but a fun project) or painted one on a big sheet of butcher paper or a white sheet and then decorated it with stamps and glitter. Then we hung it on the wall. The kids are not fooled, they feel a little cheated, but I don't care. I just can't bring myself to go with a tree either fake or dead.
Now, final;ly, I live in the country on a plot that needs more trees. I look forward to choosing and planting christmas trees that I will be able to know and love for years to come.
oh PS call your local parks department: many have programs that accept your live christmas tree for planting in parks.

Jessica said...

We go to a lot that is very close to our home and cut our own. After my son watched Charlie Brown Christmas we have begun to choose small trees because they don't usually get the "love" the bigger ones get. I love the new tradition!

Katy said...

Last year I bought a secondhand fake tree from a local department store that was replacing its Christmas decorations. Its not perfect, but for $5 I snatched it up, along with a few strands second hand Christmas lights for $0.50

dc said...

We cut them in the state forest which surrounds our cabin, the permit is 10 or 15 dollars. We get one that is growing fairly close to others so I think of it as selective thinning.

When we lived in VA we would dig trees up at a Christmas tree farm and plant them in our yard after Christmas. We were recently back there and the 5 trees look great!!

Lisa said...

We have a 5' tall pine in our back yard with classic Christmas tree looks (we even named her "Kringle" because of it). I decorated her with LED lights and will string some bird-food-type-decorations (nuts, berries, corn) on it through the next few weeks. The tree stays in its home/in the ground, we get the beauty of a tree, and the birds are welcomed into our yard (where, hopefully, they'll want to return). Win-win-win is my favorite kind of situation and is how I view this take on having a Christmas tree. :)

Lisa Sharp said...

I'm allergic to the real thing so we have a fake tree. We hope to find an aluminum tree next time.

inkelywinkely said...

A few years before I was born, when my parents first married over 25 years ago, their first Christmas, they had nothing....they were VERY broke. They thought they couldn't even afford a tree.

One day, my dad drove by a yard sale, and there they had a plastic Christmas tree for $3, still in the box. It wasn't big..or fancy, just a cheap, KMart special, priced very reasonably. So, my daddy found the means to use that money and bought the tree.

Every year, with my family, I take out the box with the red sticker marked $3 and assemble that same tree...the one we got for our first Christmas.

My parents are divorced now, but that tree..it's still here. :)

Just A Country Girl Held Captive In The City said...

I "rescued" a tiny 4 foot artificial tree from the side of the road in someone's trash. It's wonderful to know that I saved it from the landfill and it sit's proudly on my piano for all to see it's scraggly, beautiful self! I also decorate with all trashed ornaments that I have found, so no extra footprints for my tree except the few lights I burn for a few hours each day.

Robj98168 said...

I have used the same artificial tree for years. Once in a blue moon I get a yearning for a real one, cut it myself, then cuss at the needles all over the floor. A couple of yimes I went the Living tree route, but have no plans to put in fir trees in the yard. So I stick with my artificial tree. And it's goof your using LED lights

The Larsons said...

My husband is allergic to most trees so a few days before Christmas we walk to the local nursery and pick up whatever tree they have left and bring it home on our wagon. We have contemplated a fake tree but have decided against it for now. We figure we are not creating demand since we are waiting and taking the last tree that would just be thrown out/recycled anyway.

Eco Yogini said...

I need a real tree or none at all...
We used to go cut them at a local farm (when I say local- I mean down the road in our tiny village). The guy growing them doesn't spray them... they just grow on his land.
We've also done the 'crown' land deal (Yay Canada!) and cut one that way.

I really like the idea of buying a potted tree and planting it afterwards and when we move out of our apartment that's what we'll do.

For now, our place is too tiny and I will not buy a plastic-forever tree... so I'm going to buy a rosemary bush (tiny!) and decorate it. it will supply us with rosemary all year and be small and cute. :)

eatclosetohome said...

Even though I'm surrounded by Christmas tree farms (almost literally), I usually go with the Christmas Hibiscus. Lights on the potted plant, a few decorations, and occasionally, it even blooms while decorated.

For pine scent, I grab a few branches of trimmings and simmer them in the scent lamp, sometimes with orange peel and cloves.

auntjone said...

I have a faux tree that will be tucked away in a corner out of reach of my 15 month old who laughs at the word 'no'. Fun times.

I don't care for the mess, hassle for potential fire hazard of a real tree, so even if it were local and organic I'd still be hesistant. If I'm ever in the market for a new plastic tree I'll look for a used one.

Angela said...

we have a 3yo rosemary bush in a half-barrel planter that we acquired this summer when a friend moved away. We've brought it indoors for the winter and have decided that it makes the perfect sort of tree we're looking for: still living, manageably small, has therapeutic uses and fits in our tiny apartment! It's perfect!

Rosa said...

We buy garland, which is made from the trimmed branches of the trees sold by our local garden store.

It does use a lot of wire, but when I strip out the wire to compost the branches, I save it & use it for garden trellis the next year.

It smells nice, and we can hang it up high, out of child and cat reach.

Amber said...

I love a real tree, and I live in an area where they grow abundantly. However, my husband does not love a real tree, and so a number of years ago we, too, chose plastic over paper. At this point, my goal is to use this fake tree for as long as I can, and I hope that will somehow mitigate the environmental impact. Plus, I will admit, it is WAY easier and less messy.

knittingwoman said...

we live in an area where christmas tree farms are a large local industry. We are lucky to be able to get a non sprayed tree and the sale of those trees each year is a fund raiser for local centre that does work on the environment etc.
so we will get a real tree each year as long as this fundraiser exists. So far it has been going for at least 14 years that I know of.

Farmer's Daughter said...

None of the independent growers that I know around here use pesticides or fertilizers. They just plant trees and care for them, then let people come cut them down.

I always have a real tree. A fake one would just be strange in my house!

koolchicken said...

I've had both real and fake trees over the years. My sister, mother, and I are all allergic to the real ones so we had to give them up. I have a fake one now that's about three years old. It was a pre-lit tree I bought at Target. I'll never buy per-lit again though, when the lights started to go on it it was a nightmare. I wasn't willing to throw it away so several hours and two bleeding hands later I had a "new" tree. I have all new led lights that I hope will last me a long time. And when I got bored with my old ornaments I painted them with glue and covered them with glitter! I'm not as green as I'd like to be but I do try. I know the tree with it's lead warnings is horriable for the enviorment. I try to make up for it in other ways. I like to buy fabric ribbon and save it from year to year. And I saved small boxes I got in the mail to be covered with wrapping paper and reused yearly. I figured it would cut down on what goes into the trash. Not that the cardboard would be thrown out, it has to be taken to the transfer station for recycling where I live.

Nonie said...

We have a live tree in a pot that we bought about 3 years ago. It's a very slow growing tree that should be between 6 and 8 feet when it's full grown, so with proper care and re-potting, it should work for us for years to come. It lives in a shady spot in the backyard during the year, then on Dec 21 it comes inside and gets decorated with a strand of white LEDs and a few glass ornaments. It stays in the house until the 26th, then it goes back outside. It's too dry in the house for a live tree to stay inside much longer than that. But that's plenty of time to light a Solstice tree, and have a tree for presents on Christmas morning.

Condo Blues said...

I think the greenness of a real vs fake tree largely depends upon your preference. My husband grew up with live trees but believes that fake is greener because of the reuse factor. Especially when our tabletop tree was a handed down to me when I was in college.

We go w/ fake because I have allergies. Our main tree is a prelit with incandescent lights. Restringing it w/ LEDs as very little appeal, so we follow Danish tradition and just lite it on Christmas day.

I'd really like an swankadelic vintage aluminum tree but I can't get the husband to go for it.

Christine F. said...

I never thought I would ever have an artificial tree. I was raised in the country, cut your own tree farms were all over and we always had a real tree growing up. My husband's grandmother used to have a small tree farm. Eventually they got too old for all of it so they just let everything grow up. For a few Christmases when we were first married we would try to find a smallish tree there or cut the top off of a giant one to use, but it got to be a little much. Hubs just set up our "new" artificial tree on Friday night. It was a hand me down from my parents so at least we are reusing something that was already kicking around out there. I can't believe how much I love it, but I really do. It's huge and was fun to fluff up and decorate. We are planning on keeping this sucker forever too so no worries about it going into a landfill any time in the near future.

cindy24 said...

I bought a funky metal christmas tree from Smith & Hawkins 12 years ago. I had been looking for years for metal or wood tree. Love it. It is different and the kids keep asking why we don't have a green one. My family wants to do an intervention and get us a real tree.

Kate said...

We have a handful of tree farms within very close range (less than three miles). One is pretty close to the library, the other practically in my parents' backyard. So we can get to the farms without making any special trip, and they're all family owned and operated in this area. I've never even asked about what chemicals go into their production. I just always assumed that trees grow pretty well on their own here, with no irrigation of anything like that. I doubt anyone bothers with organic certification, though I'll ask this year. Deer would be the biggest hazard where we live. They like to rub their antlers on evergreens.

We go to the farms and cut our own trees. We like supporting a local business, and having the scent of a really fresh green tree. And when we're done with it our township turns it into mulch for us and gives it back to us for free. I can live with that arrangement.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

We drive 20 minutes away to a tree farm and chop down our own. They don't use any pesticides and we like supporting the local business. Plus, our city takes the tree after the holiday and composts it. I could never do plastic-- ultimately it will end up in a landfill. Plus, there's nothing like the smell of a real tree!

Anonymous said...

we will go support the local tree farmer on our road. Its $45 well spent - the cash stays in the community, he hires local teens to help with the harvesting and replanting and my hubby loves real trees.

growing up we had tons of cedar trees on our land - so my dad and mom would cut one every year and whack off the top portion for our tree - tough to hang ornaments from but they did smell really nice. Dad would use the trunk part leftover in our attic and closets and in the goat shed.....

My grandmother had the huge aluminum tree with color light wheel - so you know I'm looking for one of those to have in our 70s theme basement family room....but only from a tag sale...

greeen sheeep said...

Our neck of the woods is surrounded by Christmas tree farms. Within a few miles of any direction we can cut our own. I insist on having a real tree to avoid the plastic pollution. Plus, the tree is taking in carbon while growing. After Christmas we stick it outside for the birds to live in. In the Spring it gets chopped up and added to the compost pile. Having said that, this year we splurged on a vintage aluminum tree off eBay. I think our real tree days may be numbered.

RedStateGreen said...

We've bought a live tree every year for over 15 years now. One we bought when my daughter was little (she's 18 now) is still growing in front of our old house in California, about 30 feet tall the last time we drove by there.

It's harder to get one to survive the winters here in Oklahoma, but we still buy the potted darlings. They're way too pretty to cut down, IMO.

Crunchy Chicken said...

I really like a lot of the alternatives that you guys are doing (cutting down USFS trees or cutting roadside "weeds", etc.). The thing that crossed my mind, however, was the same issue I worry about with foraging. We can't all do it, or the problems outweigh the benefits.

So, if we all had to choose one method of tree acquisition, what would be the best method? Getting a living tree is impractical for most people who don't have the space or the programs in the area to donate them... so is it really just a case-by-case situation? There is no general green recommendation to be had?

Jenn said...

We have a potted douglas fir. It was growing in an inconvient place so we yanked it out of the yard. The first few years it looked more like charlie brown tree but it is finally filling in nicely.

saighnin said...

Over the years I've been through a couple variations of the non-tree, due to green leanings, brokeness, or a combination of the two, including my first "Christmas tree": a 1 foot tall stub of scavenged leftover trimmings that lived in a vase for the through the holiday. My favorite so far has been the Christmas Ficus we made by dressing the resident houseplant up with fairy lights. Granted, the ficus in question was enormous - not necessarily easy to go out and buy one that size in a pinch - but it looked so very pretty twinkling away in the corner. My mom has also suggested getting a norfolk pine, apparently a coniferous houseplant that looks at least a little bit more like the real thing.

Anonymous said...

We're in Vancouver, and rent a tree.

Carly said...

I don't want to deal with the tree and then I would only feel guilty throwing it out or something. This year, I decided to get a rosemary bush from Whole Foods as the replacement tree. It smells good, and I hope it encourages me to cook more from scratch.

Isabelle from Zurich said...

We have a Swedish wooden tree with wooden candle holders for big candles. No other decoration needed on the tree but enough space under it to store the gifts.

La La said...

I use a Rosemary plant (in a pot) that is in the general shape of a christmas tree. It's started out small, but it's pretty big now. Not only do I get a nice compact Tree that holds ornaments well and smells good, I get nice rosemary all year round (it likes being in the house during the cold..) inside or out (likes being outside during the rest of the year...)

Has worked really well for the last 3 years. (Before that I tried a potted pine, but the poor thing died...)
Don't have to reinvest in something that has a lifespan of a few weeks, and we have something useful year round... and it's worked in apartments and our house...

Tricia said...

I'm allergic to pine, and artificial trees bother my breathing, so I made a Christmas tree out of wine bottles rescued from being thrown in the dumpster and a fence post a neighbor was throwing out. The only thing I had to purchase were some dowel rods.

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