Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas trees – how green can you get?

Today's guest blogger, Sue Hartman, shares her thoughts and ideas on where your Christmas tree choices fall on the green meter.

Evergreen in Snow by David Wagner

Christmas Trees
How Green can you Get?

1. Least Green
Buy a plastic or metal tree that goes into a landfill when you are done with it and stays there for however many hundreds of year. Making it also takes up valuable resources. Some twisted metal trees can be recycled – check with your local recycling center. If it is still in good shape, but you want to switch to a live tree, consider donating it to a Goodwill or local community center.

2. Good
Buy a live tree, use it, and set it out for the trash (not in a big plastic bag or you are back to the landfill issue as in number 1.

3. Better
Buy a live tree, use it, then chip or mulch it yourself, donate it to be chipped/mulched or put it somewhere on your property to break down organically and enrich your soil. You can use Earth911 to locate your nearest Christmas tree recycling program.

4. Even Better
Buy a live tree from a Christmas tree farm that will immediately plant one in its place, and then follow the disposal directions above.

5. Best -- Most Green
Buy a live tree with the root ball from a Christmas tree farm or a nursery. Put it in a washbasin or large bucket of some type and keep it watered. Use it for the holidays and then plant it on your property afterwards.

Based on the experience of some who have done this, here is some advice on what to consider before you choose this option:
  • Buy a slightly smaller tree than you might otherwise, as you will be trying to move it in its root ball in and out of your house and into its planting hole after Christmas.
  • Look up. As the tree grows, is it going to hit power lines or other obstacles? Find out how high the tree is expected to grow.
  • Look down and around. Remember that the roots will grown out from the tree at approximately the same length as the tree is in height. The growing roots can lift up sidewalks and driveways if planted too close to them. Avoid planting trees near house foundations or underground services.
  • Realize that pine trees make your soil more acidic and will kill any surrounding grass.
  • Plant the tree away from the house. Dropped needles are very slippery. Do not plant your tree where the needles will fall onto steps, sidewalks or driveways as the tree grows.
  • Either dig a large and deep planting hole early in December. Digging through frozen ground in January can be challenging.
  • Buy a small potted tree and simply decorate that. The small pines, such as a Norfolk, can be reused and repotted year after year.
  • After Christmas, if you don’t have the space or ability to plant the tree on your own property, donate your potted tree to a local park, church, school or friend.

Sharing someone else's thoughts on just another way to go green this Christmas,



  1. This is such a great post. This will be the second year that I've purchased my own tree and I wasn't even aware of root balls. After reading this, I did a little more research. Any suggestions if you aren't interested in lining your yard in pine trees, but want to plant your tree?

  2. Thanks. As suggested by Sue in the last bullet point, check with your friends, schools, or parks (or community centers and nursing homes) to see if they would like a donation of a tree after the holidays. It is important to check with them ahead of time so they can plan for it in January and possibly dig the hole ahead of time.

  3. This is a step in the right direction. Someday i need to write about this. I grew up on a tree farm, and my life lessons have been about how non-green conventional tree farming really is--if the trees are sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and antifungals, as is typical. my father was one of the statistics, one tree farmer who demonstrated that his occupational hazard of being nearly 3x as likely to get lymphoma from the use of those sprays. He died a little over a year after the American Cancer Society published the study linking the chemicals with cancer. http://www.naturescountrystore.com/roundup/page8.html


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