Environment Holiday 2009 banner
Winter Trees

Be as Green as your Christmas Tree

by Lynne Delaney

The roots of the Christmas tree go back to simpler times when humans and nature weren’t so far apart. With modern life has come mass production of this ancient Holiday symbol. A family’s Christmas tree is more likely to arrive on the back of truck than a sled pulled out from nearby woods.

Electric lights blaze and decorations carry the production stamps from far away factories. But the trees are still green, and there are ways to bring more “green energy” into every aspect of this tradition.

Throughout the centuries, trees have been important symbols for helping humans celebrate what is meaningful to them. Peering through the branches into the unrecorded past, various “pagan” traditions decorated trees and hung mistletoe during the Winter Solstice.

By the 1500s, the Christmas custom of bringing a tree indoors and decorating it was established in Germany. Immigrants from that country brought the tradition of the Christmas tree with them to the United States, introducing it to their new homeland by the early 1800s.

By the 1850s, trees were being cut commercially for many homes throughout the United States. Since then, the Christmas tree industry has sprouted into an annual harvest of approximately 30-35 million trees per year in the United States alone.

In addition, an estimated 50 million artificial trees are brought out and plugged in each holiday season in this country. Proponents of fake trees say they’re “saving” a live one.

Those that purchase cut trees can point out that the trees they buy most likely come from a tree farm where each year’s harvest is replaced by new seedlings. As long as people are buying, the farms will sprout new trees.

At the end of Christmas, the cut trees decompose much faster into the ground, whereas the artificial ones last for centuries in a landfill and usually deposit harmful substances, including lead, into the ground.

Up until five years ago, my husband and I used to assemble and decorate a small artificial tree each Christmas. When we moved from an apartment to a new house with more space, the extra room suggested an opportunity for a full sized cut tree. At the same time, we had a new property and all sorts of visions of landscaping.

We pondered the notion of having a multi-purpose tree to cover both our Christmas and landscaping needs.

From that point on, we’ve been buying live trees, dressing them up for the holidays and plopping them in the ground when the celebration is done.

The live trees are smaller and a bit more expensive, but less expensive than buying both a cut tree each year and trees for planting! And they are just as fun to decorate and admire as a larger tree.

What we love the most about the live Christmas tree is the living energy it brings into our home and the knowledge that this energy will live on as a part of our back yard.

Lynne Delany's Christmas tree
Lynne’s Living Christmas Tree

Thinking about the living energy of our Christmas trees made us reconsider the items that adorn them. We swapped the old lights for new LED lights. Some store-bought decorations remain, but more and more homemade ones and ornaments crafted by local artists now hang from the branches.

We also thought about what we might do some year if we couldn’t afford the higher price of a live tree. A large houseplant, already in the home, could fill in nicely. Or a Christmas tree could be fashioned out of old tree branches and decorated to be just as festive as a cut tree.

Buying a live tree is a wonderful way to green up your holiday. You can take it a step further and look for a local grower.

After the Holiday season, if you don’t have room in your yard (or don’t have a yard), you can donate your living tree to a friend or to a local place that may need trees.

If you do buy a cut tree, remember that it doesn’t have to end up in the trash heap. You can recycle it in your community recycling program or recycle it in your garden or yard.

Trees are such wonderful living creatures of this earth. Let’s be mindful when choosing our trees - or choosing not to buy a tree this Holiday - and remember to give gratitude for our lovely resource.

Return to Environment page
Gingerbread ornament
Lynne Delaney

Lynne Delaney is Spiritual Consultant who offers conscious living advisement. She believes taking care of our environment is everyone's business.

Lynne is a regular contributor to CWO. She works out of her home in Brewster.

For more information about Lynne’s work visit her website or send her an email Lynne can also be reached at (508) 241-3048.

Planted Christmas tree
Lynne’s Christmas Tree is so happy in her yard that an orb of light dances around it
Cape Cod Tree Farm Ad

Cape Cod Tree Farm

Open the day after Thanksgiving: Monday - Friday 10-7 Saturday - Sunday 9-7

We suggest early selection. Some years we are sold out by December 16th. Plantable trees - We offer six varieties of living trees grown here in South Dennis for those who prefer to plant a tree after Christmas. Select from what we have pre-dug, or choose one in the field; we'll dig it for you.

(508) 398-3398 www.capecodtreefarm.com