Trees have been used for celebrations and holidays since Ancient Egyptian and Roman times. The first Christmas tree was used in 7th century Germany to represent the Holy Trinity and quickly gained popularity, becoming one of the most recognizable Christmas symbols. Recently, the decorated indoor tree has sparked a debate over whether artificial or fresh-cut trees are the most environmentally-sound decision. Actually, neither solution is ideal, but there is a third option that takes the cake.
Some argue that artificial trees save the environment and money because one fake tree can last a lifetime, keeping the owner from ever needing to cut down a tree again. However, stores market them in a myriad of new shapes, sizes and colors each season, making it difficult to be satisfied with the same boring tree each year, tempting people to purchase additional trees.
Since they are cumbersome to store during the year unless you have a large attic or garage, many of the artificial trees find their way into landfills. Most artificial trees are made of PVC, which is formed by petroleum, lead and dioxins (super-toxic chemicals) that are released into the environment both during production and decomposition. Dioxins increase the risk of cancer, damage immune functions and can impair children’s development.
Despite how high quality the artificial tree may be, it will naturally smell like plastic. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without the fresh evergreen scent that a real tree gives off. Some people try to create the smell by spraying more toxins into the air, but nothing can beat Mother Nature.
Others argue that cut-trees are the solution because they do not contain toxic chemicals and can be recycled the weekend after Christmas by several non-profit groups. The trees are farmed in the United States and Canada, compared to the 85 percent of artificial trees that come from Chinese factories. Since U.S. trees don’t have to be shipped as far, less exhaust is expelled into the air.
Oregon is the top Christmas tree manufacturer in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NSTA), therefore by buying a real tree you’re supporting the local economy. For every cut Christmas tree, three seedlings are planted in the spring and take an average of seven years to grow to 6 feet. Also according to NSTA, there are about 500,000 acres of Christmas tree farms in the U.S. and each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 Americans, which equates to 9 million people or approximately 3 percent of the U.S. population.
If you don’t want to pollute the environment with harmful chemicals nor kill a living tree for just a few weeks of aesthetic pleasure, but would still like the festive feeling that a Christmas tree provides, there is another option. You can rent or buy a living Christmas tree.
The Original Christmas Tree Company will deliver a potted Christmas tree for $75 to most areas of the Portland metropolitan area, which is a bonus for those who would love a four-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half foot Christmas tree but don’t have a vehicle to transport them home. No one needs to be home when they drop off the tree at your doorstep by Dec. 14 and pick it up on Jan. 1. The money spent for these rentals goes toward lowering the cost for the watershed councils, park departments, churches and schools that purchase and plant the trees.
The Portland Nursery, located at 5050 S.E. Stark St., sells potted 2 to 7-and-a-half feet Nobel Firs, Douglas Firs, Spruces and more varieties for between $35 and $85. You can also check with your local nursery to see whether they supply living Christmas trees. Although the indoor environment isn’t ideal for evergreens, the one or two weeks for Christmas won’t harm them as long as they’re properly cared for. After Christmas they can sit on your porch until the next year or can be planted.
Local retail stores often sell miniature potted Christmas trees for fairly cheap. Their small size is ideal for dorms and small apartments. Home Depot sells 2-feet cone-shaped rosemary bushes for $9.97 and 3-feet ones for $14.97, which can be decorated during December and then used throughout the year to season your food.
To have the most festive Christmas, nothing can beat the aroma and ambiance of a real evergreen. Plus, you’ll feel good about supporting the local economy and environment with a potted tree.
<i>Check out www.livingchristmastrees.org for more information on Christmas tree rentals</i>