Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

O Christmas Tree!

I am so totally torn by the whole Christmas tree issue.

Planet Green (a branch of Treehugger) recently had a post regarding renting or buying a living tree. I know others have mentioned it in my post regarding what to do about Christmas trees.

Unfortunately, getting a living tree isn't entirely practical. You can only keep it in the house for a week (otherwise the tree suffers) and if you live in an apartment or on a small lot, you have the quandary of what to do with it when you are done.

On the other hand, for most of us, getting an organic tree requires one to spend a tremendous amount of effort or money. If you buy a conventional tree then you are supporting a petro-chemically raised tree that may not be all that much better than the fake trees. The petroleum to ship a living, conventional or organic tree isn't something to look at lightly either.

Again, in my mind it's a total toss-up.

In the past, we have gotten a real, conventionally grown tree. And it's always expensive - something around $80 - to support local nurseries.

So, this year, I bit the bullet and bought a fake tree with LED lights. I still feel like I need to take a shower to wash off all the lead, but I know that, with good care, the tree will last for many, many years. Plus, it was a floor model, over 50% off (only $150), and I saved a treemendous amount of money. Which is important this time of year and the fact that half our income is no longer a given.

I've decided that I'm not going to beat myself up about this one. But, clearly, I haven't let it go yet, otherwise I wouldn't be posting about it.

Of course, one could just not get a Christmas tree, but I have two small kids that I subject to enough environmental oddities, that I can't deprive them of a tree. At least not yet.


just ducky said...

It's OK. While it is a good thing that your conscience is working--environmentally speaking--no one is perfect. I have a fake Christmas tree that I bought about 8-9 years ago. We use energy-saving lights on it and even then they are on a timer. Especially when you have young children, I feel like it makes the holiday more meaningful and special for them. It's OK, Crunch. Your kids will appreciate the memories of it. Besides...your family could use a little holiday cheer right now...

Patti said...

We're buying a living tree. There is an empty lot next door which was repossessed by the city, I'm going to plant it there. I started mowing it last summer, and now I have dreams of turning it into a min-forest.
The living tree costs $40 already in a bushel basket, $20 if you want to dig it up yourself. The same prices are for an already chopped down tree, or a chop it down yourself one. But we live in the same neighborhood where these trees grow, so transportation costs are not a factor. If I had to spend $80 on a tree that was shipped in from afar, I probably would go with out, but my kids are big...if they were still little, I'd probably do what you did.

Lissa said...

You've selected an option for your Christmas tree which will serve you well for years. When you're ready to be through with it, it may be a wonderful option for someone else -- building upon the reuse factor beautifully. Your choice wasn't wasteful or spendthrift or thoughtless, and your tree will bring joy to you and your family.

I understand the tree dilemma -- I posted earlier this week that the whole debate was too much for me, and since I don't have small children I opted for a completely unorthodox decor. My Christmas branch fills a living room wall (the photos are completely bizarre, making it look tiny), and exudes rustic, simple style and cheer. Not appropriate for many other people, I'm sure, but perfect for me -- in that it brings me joy and pleasure.

Merry Christmas, Crunchy Family!

Greenpa said...

sigh. Well, I won't beat you up, Crunch- I'd assume you saw my comment over on Green as a Thistle on this topic- Real or?

I do understand the dilemma for folks living in cities or small lots-and sure, it can seem expensive.

Rather than rehash- (and yeah, I still come out on the side of real -cut, not with roots {they often don't live}) - I have a different alternative to suggest.

Grow your own.

Ha ha, I hear you cry. No, I'm serious.

Are we REALLY into "sustainable"? A huge part of that is thinking years- decades- ahead.

If you're in the suburbs- you could probably find a corner to grow 6-10 small evergreens- particularly with the understanding that they're going to STAY small.

Plant them WITH your small children. They can watch them grow- shelter birds and rabbits- it makes a very big difference when they're looking at the tree inside at Christmas. Plant 2 or 3 every year (some won't live).

No land? Ask a friend who has land to loan you a tiny patch for your Christmas trees- and offer to grow a couple for them at the same time. It takes almost no land to do this.

If you really hate the idea of cutting a tree- grow balsam firs. If you leave the bottom whorl, they'll grow back, and in a shorter time, make another tree. Other evergreens may grow back this way, but are usually too distorted to make a good tree anytime soon- balsams do it well.

Sure- not possible for everyone. But sometimes- a good alternative, I think. A couple caveats- deer may trash a tree from time to time; and astonishingly, there are a fair number of morons out there who LIKE to steal Christmas trees- so keep an eye on them.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea that a friend shared with me several years ago -- he had a large potted houseplant, I think it was a jade, and he decorated it and put it raised up on a table or shelf for the holidays so that presents would fit underneath it.

I also like the idea of having a live tree in the yard, and LEAVING it live, decorating it out there, and just making a new tradition about where the presents go, indoors.

I understand the benefits of a fake tree that lasts for many years, but personally (and I don't have kids, so it's easy for me to say...) I prefer keeping the traditions more flexible and altering them to fit the low-impact lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines Sue mentioned... I like the idea of a large potted houseplant as Christmas tree. We have a hibiscus that lives outside in the summer and is usually looking a little scraggly come November and December. The branches are sturdy enough to support light ornaments (especially those natural fiber animals & the like) and it is lots easier to string xmas lights on this than on a standard xmas tree.

Of course, there's something to be said for the "smell" of a live tree, which might be a good reason to decorate the pot with branch cuttings from a fir tree.

All that said, I do have really good memories of "assembling" my parents' plastic tree years and years ago. :-)

crstn85 said...

I have a yucca that's nearly as tall as I am that lives in my apartment year round. I decorated it last week and it looks downright festive, even if palms and christmas don't go together in my mind. This is a small sacrifice though since I'll be opening presents at my parents house, where there will be a fresh tree smelling like pine and showering us with needles.

Chile said...

Think of the fuel you've saved by not buying a cut tree: fuel to cut it, ship it, and display it for sale. Fuel for you to go pick it up. And more fuel to take it to the tree recycling center.

Fake tree uses fuel to make, ship, and display it. You use fuel to go buy it, but then that's it. No annual costs.

Live trees, unless grown yourself (I love that idea!), also use transporting fuel.

Best answer for me - fake unless you need to slowly landscape. When we have our own place, maybe we'll grow our own.

C said...

We also have a MUCHO on-sale prelit tree that we bought in my less greener days. It will last forever, and then some.

Granted, I'm still thinking and mulling over an alternate to the Christmas tree, while still keeping with the tradition. Haven't come up with anything yet!

DC said...

We have a kitschy little plastic Christmas tree that I think even Charlie Brown and Ed Begley Jr. would send to the landfill. We bought it at K-mart 15 years ago when we didn’t have enough money for a live wreath, much less a live tree. The labels with letters showing where the branches are supposed to go have mostly fallen off, so you have to guess where things fit. Some years it’s a little lopsided, and even when we get it put together correctly, it sort of looks like it’s been ravaged by pine beetles. For a few weeks a year, though, it does the job. Our son doesn’t care what the tree looks like as long as we have one and there are presents under it for him. The city Parks and Rec department hasn’t come in and tried to spray it yet, and the (presumably leaded) frame still keeps it standing upright. So, we make due with it. I’ve actually kind of got attached to it, and on some days I can relate to its haggard “just shoot me” appearance.

When the “little tree that could” finally bites it, I think we’re going to get a Norfolk Island Pine and decorate it during the holidays. We have some relatives that have done this every year, and it looks pretty good. You can grow them in containers in your home near a window. They will eventually reach about 6-7 feet high) they need to be repotted every 3-4 years). The branches are not as strong as those of traditional Christmas trees, but they can support most light to medium weight ornaments and lights (you’ll have to leave the life sized bust of Dick Cheney’s head with a Santa hat on the floor next to the tree).

Buying a well made artificial tree that you will use for many years is also a reasonably environmentally friendly solution. If you don’t get a cheap ($24.99) one like we did, it will last indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

This comment is kind of not related, but your dilemma about live or artificial tree reminded me about a x-mass tree project I participated in a while back in Louisiana (before Katrina). We used a big pontoon boat, loaded it up with old trees and literally tossed them into the swamp where the waterway met the land. In March. The idea was that the trees would stabilize the land and prevent it from loosing nutrients that were being washed out. I loved the idea of reusing the trees again. Maybe some people who read this blog and live in Louisiana know more about it, or maybe they can find out how to participate.

Anonymous said...

We have gone without - my children and I. This isn't as traumatic as is implied by all of the comments. It is more like a sales gambit we all fall for on cue. White, middle class families are particularly targeted for this version of guilt marketing - IMHO. We can create rituals as strong as the cliché ones. Our children care more about the energy we bring to the ritual and to them.

That being said, I think every family must decide each and every year what the priorities are for the family. Given your many, many challenges, rotten health issues, tremendous success stories and the whole gambit of thoughtful living, I think your decision is a fantastic one.

Anonymous said...

We're cutting our own tree. The local natural burial needs to thin out some trees to make room for burial plots, so they're letting people cut Christmas trees for free. The trees have to go anyway, they might as well be useful.

Theresa said...

We've opted for no tree this year. We didn't want to cut one down and didn't want to put up the fake plastic one. But we don't have kids, so it is a lot easier to just (not) do it.

We are fortunate to have a few acres of land, with a couple small spruce trees that we've planted. The plan is to plant a couple bigger ones nearer the house, to use as our outdoor Christmas tree next year.

I think you made the right choice for you and your family this year and for years to come, Crunchy. Merry Christmas to you and to the entire Crunchy family!

Anonymous said...

haha! i just noticed there are two of us "sue's" - I think i'll be nysue from now on (I'm the one cutting a tree at the cemetary) though that seems a little disingenuous, since I'm in a smallish upstate town (ithaca), not NYC.

Late Bloomer said...

I received my "nature Challenge" newsletter from the David Suzuki Foundation yesterday; here's a link to what they had to say about live vs fake:

We're lucky enough to have an organic tree farm not far away, so we'll be going with an organically farmed, cut tree.

Late Bloomer said...

Sorry - for some reason, I couldn't fit the entire link into the comments section.

This is the bit that should come right after Nature Challenge/:


It would appear that I need to work on my technical skills.

Anonymous said...

The fake tree is a winner, but if you have real kids {yours look pretty genuine} you better put real presents under there. Some commenters mentioned the tragic loss of the piney woods smell, but where you are you can just go get a few cuttings to bring indoors and get the needed aroma.
For me, the aroma was always the most important thing.
Where I live now, we just put lights on the Cocopalm outside and that's it. My kids are all grown and the grandkids spend Christmas where it snows..
Your guest blog at Greenpa's place was great. You should be working for Jon Stewart when the strike ends. I think he would let you work from home if you keep up the jokes.

Anonymous said...

My logic for getting a real tree was that if you support a plant-based industry (such as a Christmas tree farm) in a small way you're reducing CO2. Each tree has to grow for several years before its harvested, so that's several years of CO2 sucking it did before we made use of it. Plus, since the tree was grown for the purpose of harvest, it doesn't count towards deforestation or anything like that. Plus it just smells so much prettier than plastic. And I'm allergic to the dust that collects on the tree year to year. :-P

knittingwoman said...

wow, we don't pay a lot out here in eastern canada. We buy a chemical free real cut tree from a local environmental group that uses the sale of the trees as a fund raiser each year. It is only $25 and the city of Halifax collects the trees in early january and chops them up for use as mulch.