The Greenest Tree

Go Natural for Christmas

The star of many families’ seasonal décor, the annual Christmas tree does not need to become an environmental burden if selected with care. While some individuals have strong opinions about the virtues of a natural tree versus an artificial one, each can have pros and cons.

The National Christmas Tree Association points out that 85 percent of the plastic trees sold in the United States are imported from China and may contain toxic chemicals, while evergreen trees can be grown in all 50 states. Even with a real tree, however, there are factors to consider.

How far did the tree travel? The distance traveled from its source impacts the carbon footprint, due to the fuel expended to transport it. Most vendors can tell you the state of origin, but how about pesticides? Conventional Christmas tree farms are reputed to use abundant pesticides to keep their product looking picture-perfect. Ask if the seller is the grower and/or knows the answer. Typically, a temporary sidewalk or street corner seller may not; a better bet can be a u-pick-it tree farm.

Put a cut tree in water within a few hours after trimming the base a flat one-half to one inch; some people add an aspirin to the water to enhance absorption.

According to the 2009 National Geographic Green Guide, Americans annually discard 30 million cut trees after the holidays, with the wood wasted in landfills. Alternatively, a program in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, collects them to combat coastal erosion.

Locate tree growers by state and learn how to dispose of trees responsibly at publishes a list of organic Christmas tree farmers at

When choosing a live tree, keep it properly hydrated and just repot it in the yard after the celebrations conclude. Find detailed steps for care and planting from at and

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