Oh Christmas Tree: It’s time to recycle

It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for fresh-cut Christmas trees. When I was about 12, my parents decided to save money by investing in an artificial tree. I was furious. No lovely evergreen smell. No dark wood peeking out. In protest, I refused to put my ornaments up. And when Christmas came the next year and the artificial tree was unpacked, I stood my ground again.

This isn’t a complete success story from my youth. I eventually had to give up and participate in decorating the artificial tree. My parents didn’t have anything against fresh-cut trees, so we did have a few during my late teens, and boy, Christmas was so much better. I’m not exaggerating here! I just love fresh-cut trees for Christmas (If you prefer artificial and need to keep future costs down, by all means go ahead and look for the most environmentally friendly and keep it forever). I even promised myself to never purchase a “fake tree” as an adult (unless my future children somehow developed major allergies, as this is the only true excuse). So, why, you may be asking, is she discussing Christmas trees mid-January?

I got a lot of flak this year for purchasing a live Christmas tree. It seemed like everyone and their mother insisted on asking me if it was against my lease (it wasn’t, but always check your lease and city regulations) and telling me what a fire hazard a live tree is. Wasn’t I concerned it’d start a fire? How could I bring that into my home? They even played on my environmental side: Wasn’t cutting down a tree each year bad for the environment?

So here I am going to answer these questions while presenting a few facts to go with my opinion:

Artificial and real trees are fire hazards

Neither tree is going to suddenly combust. In fact, Christmas tree fires are caused by external source on any tree, fake or real: frayed wires, overcrowded outlets, overloaded electric circuits, candles, etc. While dry trees can be a hazard, their general indoor span is 4 weeks, so it is easy to keep them watered and then to remove them from your home before their needles start to fall off. So if you want to be on that bandwagon, please refrain from getting a tree. Or lighting a candle. Or making toast (I’ve seen 3 toasters start on fire, no trees). Otherwise be sure to use LED lights and check for frayed cords, in general avoid extension cords and never leave your tree lit when you’re going to bed or leaving the house.

If you put up any kind of Christmas tree, be sure to check out the National Fire Protection Association’s safety guidelines.

Fresh-cut trees are more environmentally friendly

Do you know what your artificial trees are most likely made of? Plastic, non-biodegradable materials. Artificial trees are also likely to have been imported from other countries (think Made in China), adding to their environmental footprint. To their credit, manufacturers are now making more and more “green” trees. But that tree will someday end up in a landfill. So if you must, buy smart and plan on keeping the tree for a long, long time.

On the other hand, fresh-cut trees have not only absorbed CO2 during its lifetime, they can also be recycled and used to create playground material, walkways and even used for beachfront erosion prevention. Trees are also grown on sustainable farms. One factor you do need to worry about is pesticide use. Look for local, green tree farms to ensure the most earth-friendly Christmas tree.

Over the weekend I recycled my tree for free, I might add (even used a bio-degradable bag to remove it, leaving my apartment needle-free). Have you recycled yours?

Recycling Jerri the tree with my boyfriend

For more information, check out this great article from USA Today.

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