Your 2011 Christmas Tree Guide
With Thanksgiving behind us, it's time to scout for the giant cat toy…er, Christmas tree that, for many of us, will take over the living room for several weeks. Yes, it's messy and a bit of a hassle but I look forward to that wonderful pine smell and rediscovering all the gorgeous ornaments that have been patiently waiting in the basement all year long.
Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert, informed us that the Obama administration recently backed off a plan to slap on a 15-cent-per-tree tax created by tree growers themselves. Evidently, it was created to fund a promotional push similar to the "Got Milk?" campaign. (As in, "Got Tree?", I guess? Strange.) Just 24 hours after the Department of Agriculture made the tax announcement, the White House wisely realized it was the wrong plan at the wrong time as that extra tax would surely be paid by us and not the tree growers.
Additionally, Andrea provided tree shopping tips and we've added some green-minded thoughts, but here are things to consider when picking out this year's Christmas tree:
1. Ask, "Where did the tree come from?"
Some tree lots buy trucked-in trees before Thanksgiving, meaning they'll drop needles faster than airlines can raise their baggage fees. Weeks may have passed since those trees were originally cut, so always ask the vendor where and when they buy their trees.
2. Check Freshness
Is the tree green, healthy with a fragrant scent and moist, flexible needles? Does it have damaged bark or broken branches? When you bounce it lightly on the ground, does it shower you with needles? Also, consider weight; a heavy tree (relative to size) means it contains more moisture, which indicates freshness.
3. Buy Locally Grown
If possible, find an area farm that sells freshly cut trees. You'll still want to give them the bounce test, but just the fact they were cut on-site means the trees are fresher. Enter your zip code under "Find My Tree Now" on the National Christmas Tree Association's website to find your nearest provider.
4. If Possible, Go Organic
Currently, there are organic tree lots in about 22 states. Some are touted at "low-spray" which means a decreased usage of pesticides. This site is a helpful start to finding such a place in your region.
5. Cut Your Own
Sure, it takes some muscle and a sharp saw but how cool is it to harvest your own tree? Very. Not sure where to find an approved location? This site is a good place to start.
6. Buy Roots and Replant
If you've got the space, consider buying a tree that can be replanted. Soon, you'll have a legacy forest of holidays past. American Forest offers useful tips on how to sucessfully pull it off. Planting trees is the best way to reduce global warming effects so the tree will have two important jobs in its lifetime.
7. Buy Online
8. Take Care
If possible, keep your new tree outside in a shady spot for a couple days, preferably in water. Before bringing it in, cut half an inch or so off the trunk end. Now that it's in your home, make sure to keep it watered just like all the other plants. (Note that some of the products sold at Xmas tree lots to "keep your tree fresh" are dangerous for pets.)
I cannot stress this enough. Please keep those trees out of the landfills and turn them into mulch instead. The trees can be ground for use in gardens, walking paths or animal stalls. They can also be used as erosion barriers on beaches, streambeds and lakes. Or, toss it in a private lake or pond, where the tree will provide refuge for fish.
There are debates about eco-friendliness of the tree tradition overall but consider that while the trees grow, they replenish the air with oxygen. (One acres of Xmas trees produces enough for 18 people.) They also provide habitat for birds and other wildlife and because they're so hardy, are often planted where other plants cannot grow, thereby increasing soil stability.
Basically, the environmental damage in the Xmas tree biz comes when the trees are not recycled or burned, causing air pollution. If you have additional resources, please post them in the comments.
Happy Holiday to all you Treehuggers/decorators.
BlogHer Section Editor, LIFE & GREEN; Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns; Proprietor, ClizBiz