Solving the Christmas Tree Eco-Dilemma

As Christmas draws near, I feel increasingly pressured as an “eco-friendly parent” to resolve my internal Christmas tree dilemma without denying my family the Christmas tree magic I loved as a child.

Although I completely relate with Jerry’s Charlie Brown Christmas blog, from an ecological perspective it seems that tree farms are pretty good for the planet because they actually provide a continued “sink” for carbon dioxide emissions.

As a completely-paranoid-about-toxic-chemicals mom, I like the fact that real trees are not made from PVC plastics that cause cancer and harm the planet. Christmas tree pesticides worry me, but pesticides are a concern whenever crops are not organic, and I’d prevent the kids from eating the tree.

I considered a potted tree, but I’m not convinced it would thrive in our yard, or that I’d really want a forest of thirsty Christmas trees blocking all my beloved sun as the years pass.

So, because I live in a rural-ish community rife with tree farms, the solution seems clear: Just be selective about the farm I choose and cut down a tree without an excess of pesticides and other chemicals. No shipping to cause greenhouse gases, no packaging. Done!

But no, because I’m laden with a spiritual wet blanket: how can I celebrate the coming of a new year by killing a poor tree? I feel silly, like the fruitarian in “Notting Hill” who wouldn’t eat carrots because it was carrot-murder.

Does one really need to take “tree hugging” so literally that one cannot cut down a tree expressly grown for that purpose?

Yet, when we actually got to the tree farm, I couldn’t do the deed. We had wonderful adventures hiding amongst the trees, but I felt too guilty and wrong to actually cut a tree down. What if my kids have a similar feeling of “wrongness” killing a living plant? Do I trample that moral seed, push them to be more callous, less respectful of living creatures if I condone the tree’s death? When did I become so serious?

In any event, my dilemma was solved a couple days ago. Wild winter winds ripped a huge branch from our cypress tree and planted it on our driveway. It looks lovely with lights and shiny ornaments, and it was SO fun working together to create a fabulous design.

And maybe next year, I’ll be able to push that wet blanket aside and rationalize a family adventure to the tree farm where we do more than play fox and birds in the trees.

Or maybe I’ll just rent a tree.


Christine Stewart

Nothing wrong with a potted, living tree that you give away after the holidays are over!

Dorothy D.
Dorothy D9 years ago

Don't have a tree unless it is a living tree that can be planted outdoors later...

May Can
May Can9 years ago

How about a potted native (native-bird-friendly) tree that can be replanted? Are pine trees native to the US? Are they good for the soil and for the birds there? They're not in my country - they leach nutrients from the soil and push out native plants and trees, thus invading and undermining native birds' habitat.

May Can
May Can9 years ago

How about a potted native (native-bird-friendly)
tree that can be replanted? Are pine trees native to the US? They're not in my country and they're bad for the soil here (they pull nutrients from it).

Kristina C.
Kristina C9 years ago

When you cut and buy a tree from a tree farm, you are supporting the people that plant all those trees. It's supply and demand. The more trees that are cut, the more they will plant for next year, and the one after that, because they want to keep selling trees for a living. And if the tree you buy is shredded for mulch, or composted, then there is little environmental impact.

Darcy Kaltio
Darcy Kaltio9 years ago

One family I know has a 'celebration tree' in their house. I think it's a big ficus. It's gorgeous and quite large. This tree is in a pot and growing. They've had it for over 10 years. For each holiday season, they decorate the tree with seasonally appropriate decorations, including Christmas. The children, who have grown up with this tradition, don't miss having a more traditional tree since this is their tradition.

Mathew Wilson
Mathew Wilson9 years ago

Here's my fix. Cut one tree down. Plant two more. Keeps my guilt at bay (Down with fake trees!).

Jodell L.
Jodell Gabriel9 years ago

For the past ten years, I've had a Christmas branch. This came to me from two sources. One source was some friends who used a branch. The second source was a branch that broke off a tree in the autumn. It seemed like I sign to follow my friend's example.

Historically the Christmas tree symbolized bringing light and the hope of rebirth after the longest night of the year. Light in the midst of winter is what I appreciate most about the tree.

So I have my branch with a string of lights on color. In past years just plain white lights. This No needles to clean, no environmental issues. I just keep my eyes alert in the fall and a branch shows up. When I tire of it (which might be as late as Valentine's Day) I return it to where I found it or cut it up for camping wood.

Rach n.
Rach n9 years ago

We just use the same set of fake trees and garlands every year-- whatever pollution occurred while they were being made was a one-time thing because we'll never get "bored with them" and throw them out. We love our christmas decorations and would never contribute to the waste in landfills by just tossing them, so I see having a fake tree as being environmentally friendly in the long-run. I never have to have a dillemma about what farm to buy from or the moral dillema of killing the tree for our celebration-- even if I do eat vegetables and plants all the time, thee's something about killing a tree that I can't bring myself to accept... strange double standard, huh?

sharon m.
sharon m9 years ago

To have a Christmas tree or not seems to be quite a dilemma. One option to consider to resolve the quilt and/or inorganic nature of christmas tree farms is to maybe grow a tree in your yard to replace the one you got for the season?? Another option is using a branch (preferably from an invasive) hung upside down from the ceiling and decorated - our family's option now for several years and quite contemporary! Have fun and make this tradition your own - it's Christmas!