Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Real Christmas trees, yet another renewable resource?

Really? I hear you ask. Aren't those reusable ones a far better choice because they can be REUSED??!!

Well, apparently not according to what I read recently at Treehugger, and The National Christmas Tree Association , (who admittedly may be ever so slightly biased).

The main issues here seem to be the fact that artificial trees travel a long way, mostly from China, and that they are made from PVC, which is in turn made from petroleum, which is as you all know, a non renewable resource. PVC also contains lead, and when manufactured, can release many harmful chemicals such as dioxins into the environment. Artificial trees in theory can last for ever, but in practice they often get thrown out well before their time, and end up in landfills, forever.

Real trees aren't the perfect choice either, they are often farmed using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and unless one buys a locally grown tree, can also travel thousands of miles to get to their destination in your front room. However, real trees are farmed sustainably, use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, and can be mulched after use to release "good" chemicals such as nitrogen, and carbon into the earth.

The best choice for us would of course be no tree, but I am afraid I am simply not that green just yet. And the real tree we got was not farmed locally, or farmed organically, however we will be mulching it because Phoenix has a great Christmas tree "drop off and be mulched" system, and I am a true lover of mulch!

So, with out further ado, here are some pictures of our really not quite so green Christmas tree!



And after

What ever kind of tree you have I hope you are enjoying it as much as we are enjoying ours!


Amy said...

What a gorgeous tree! And the girls seemed to be having a wonderful time decorating it. I bet your house smells so festive right about now. Mmmmmm....fresh pine!

Rick Dungey said...

Nice blog and great pictures. Like so many other pro-environmental writers, you are correct to tell your readers that a farm-grown Christmas tree is a much better eco-choice than a plastic, manufactured tree which is non-biodegradable.
However, I find it intriguing that you inform your readers that buying a tree from an "organic" tree farm is a better choice than a tree grown on any other tree farm. I’ve been looking into this issue since consumers ask us about it sometimes and based on the legitimate scientific research out there, no evidence exists to suggest that your assertion is correct. Do you know of any scientific research showing that organic trees are better somehow than non-organic ones? I recently read a fascinating book as part of my research called The Truth About Organic Foods by Alex Avery.

One of the most enlightening things I learned was that the common belief that organic farms don’t use pesticides is utterly and completely untrue. Copper Sulfate, Nicotine Sulfate, Bt, pyrethrum, Spinosad...the list of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides approved for use by the National Organic Standards Board reads like a toxicology report. Yet, curiously, I never see any mention of these pesticides in mainstream articles blithely telling readers that organic agricultural products are better for the environment. I think you owe it to your readers to tell them that organic farms do indeed use pesticides, they just come from different sources. But they are just as poisonous as man-made chemicals, and in some cases, much more toxic. And in many cases, the application rates of organic approved pesticides is much higher because they are not as effective at eliminating pests. So the environmental burden can actually be higher.

I also have a philosophical dilemma with your assertion that buying a tree from a local farm only is a good environmental choice. Would you suggest the same thing about all agricultural products? I mean, here in the Midwest, if I want a banana or an orange or many other farm-products, I have to get them from a long way away. Is this a bad environmental choice? Should I only eat peanuts if I live in Georgia? Should I only eat blueberries if I live in Maine or Michigan? Should I only wear cotton T-shirts if I live in Alabama or Mississippi? Personally, I’m glad I live in a country where I can buy agricultural products from all over the country (and even some imported) all year long. I don’t think that’s bad for the environment, I think it’s good for people.

To be clear, buying a Christmas tree from a local farm or even an organic farm are perfectly fine options. It’s not better or worse...just different. I just think it’s misleading to your readers to suggest that if they don’t do that, they are making a bad environmental choice.

Thanks for supporting Christmas Tree farmers.

Rick Dungey
Public Relations Manager
National Christmas Tree Assoc

Anonymous said...

Hey guys
Your tree is beautiful!!!!
The girls look great and I hope to see you all soon. Crystal
Almost finished w school!!!!!

Mo said...

Hi Crystal,

I am done with school, (YAY), finished yesterday. I am thinking of you and knowing you will get all A's!

Love Mo.

Aiyana said...

Your tree is gorgeous! I stopped putting up a tree in 2003, and really don't miss it, but I do love looking at others' trees. I spent so many hours and days decorating the house and tree over the years, that I decided when I retired from work, I was going to retire from decorating too!

Mo said...

Thanks Aiyana! Of course by choosing to have no tree you are being very environmentally friendly too! :):)

Mo said...

Dear Rick,

Thank you for your very lengthy response to my post. If I may I would like to respond to a few of your points.

1. I do believe that buying an organic Christmas tree is the better choice. My beliefs about organic farming were formed while working on a small, family run organic farm many years ago. While there I learned that the basic idea of organic farming is to grow our food as naturally possible, without the use of potentially harmful chemicals, and without causing harm to the environment. I am still a passionate believer in these principles, and nothing that I have read in the years since has changed my view. If I ever find valid research that finds organic farming to be harmful to the environment, then I will change my view. You ask me if I “know of any scientific research showing that organic trees are better somehow than non- organic ones?” No I haven’t, but I also have not read any research to prove that non-organic trees are better somehow than organic ones. Have you?

2. You state that “you owe it to your readers to tell them that organic farms do indeed use pesticides, they just come from different sources”. A few posts back I did just that by stating that I had used a “pesticide” of plant based soaps on organic zucchini’s in my garden to try to control aphids. Please don’t imply that I am trying to keep some dirty little secret about organic farming and pesticides, because I am doing no such thing. I fully understand the potential risks of over using so called "organic pesticides", and with the advent of organic agribusiness as a money making concern this is certainly an issue. However, to assert that "the environmental burden can actually be higher" using organic farming methods, as opposed to conventional methods based on this one arguement is unfair. There are many complex issues involved. I will gladly read “The Truth about Organic Farming” by Alex Avery, and I will review it on my blog, and discuss the issues raised.

3. I did not claim that “buying a tree from a local farm only is a good environmental choice”. I think my words were “unless one buys a locally grown tree, (they) can also travel thousands of miles to get to their destination in your front room.” This is by no means saying that a locally grown tree “only is a good environmental choice”. Of course it is better for the environment to buy something locally, rather than buying something that has traveled thousands of miles. Carbon dioxide emissions are the major global environmental threat that we currently have, and anything that can be done to reduce them is a good thing. Having said that, I too live within the constraints of a family budget, and modern life, and I make the best choices that I can within the restraints that I have. I often need to buy produce that is not grown locally, but faced with an apple grown in California, or one from New Zealand, I will always go with the one grown closer to where I live. If I had found any locally grown, affordable Christmas trees, I would most certainly have bought one. I am a passionate advocate for supporting the local economy, and small business.

4. You state that I am ‘misleading” my readers by suggesting that if they don’t buy a tree from a local farm or an organic farm “that they are making a bad environmental choice”. Again, I don’t think that I made any such suggestion. Do you think I would have bought a live, non-organic, non-locally grown tree and discussed it on my “sustainable living” blog if it were a “bad” choice environmentally? I think my point was clear, No tree will ALWAYS be the best option. However, even amateur environmentalists such as me like to enjoy a few simple pleasures in life, and so that is why I chose the non-organic, non-locally grown live tree that I did, as opposed to an artificial one. That was the best choice that I felt I could make based on environmental considerations, budget restraints, the needs of my family, and real life, which is what my blog is all about.

Once again, thank you for your comments, and I am very happy to continue to support Christmas tree farmers out there. They are indeed very lucky to have an advocate such as yourself.

Kindest Regards,


leaner said...

Beautiful tree, and wow what an interesting set of comments!

I have to say that I have a fakey. We bought it years ago. I have never actually had a real tree, IN MY LIFE. But my parents have used the same one for oh about 15 or 20 years.

I do love the smell of real pine though.