Holiday decorating: To tree or not to tree?

Posted December 13th, 2011 by Jessica Haney in Green, Health, Living, Uncategorized

For the second year in a row, my family cut down a Christmas tree at Ticonderoga Farms in Chantilly, Virginia. It was a sunny day with a brisk wind, warmer than last year — and different with a walking (and heavier!) toddler instead of an infant!

This is a fun ritual for me; it recalls the days when I was a rosy-cheeked tot. My family always cut down a real tree, and I like my kids going outside to do the same. However, for families that celebrate Christmas and try to do so in a “green” way, there are a number of considerations for holiday decorations.

A live tree has taken years to grow and will then only have a short life in the home if cut. Pretty wasteful! Be sure to find a tree recycling program so that your tree gets turned into mulch or at least doesn’t get tossed in a landfill.

Another worry is pesticides: that tree might be filled with them, just like conventional, non-organic flowers are. It’s not good for anyone to bring toxins into their home, but especially not for families with children or for women dealing with fertility issues.

For folks who have their heart set on cutting down a tree of their own, the best option is to talk with the farm about their spraying practices. Although it’s not listed on Green Promise’s guide to”Organic Christmas Tree Farms,” or on Beyond Pesticide’s lists of resources on organic trees and wreaths, Chantilly, Virginia’s Ticonderoga Farms reported that it does not spray its trees (or its pumpkins at Halloween time).

Going out to Ticonderoga’s holiday festival can be a whole day of fun for kids, with slides and all sorts of little houses to climb around on. But if Junior tires out and you decide instead to go with a pre-cut tree, do note that Fraser Firs don’t grow in Virginia and have been brought in from another farm. Your carbon footprint — after driving all the way to Chantilly in the first place — just got bigger.

If you’re handy in the garden and the ground is not too hard in December, consider buying a living Christmas tree to plant after the holiday. Ticonderoga sells these balled beauties, too. The farm recommends not keeping balled trees in the house for more than 12 days, so buy late.

Artificial trees obviously get more use than a one-time cut tree, but plastic doesn’t grow on trees: it has to be manufactured. That’s often in China, with a lot of toxins and not a lot of fair labor practices. The Daily Green describes what to look for in an artificial tree, including an American-made tree

For this me, going out to a tree farm is a part of my childhood I’m happy to re-create with my own family.

And even though Santa was gone by the time we got there, my son later gushed his enthusiasm for our return trip to Ticonderoga. A phrase every parent welcomes hearing from a sometimes-ungrateful child is: “I love this day!”

What family traditions of yours are enjoyed by kids and parents alike?

This post is adapted from the author’s piece last year published at The Washington Times Communities.

Jessica Claire Haney writes about living naturally (most of the time) on her blog, Crunchy-Chewy Mama, for her Washington Times Communities column, “Reading Ingredients: A Health-Conscious Mom,” and for All Things Mothering.

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3 Responses to “Holiday decorating: To tree or not to tree?”

  1. David Grover

    Living Christmas trees are fun but I have a severe warning for you if you do choose to get a real tree: My aunt had her house burn down because the tree caught fire! She gave a child a candle to hold and she got busy doing something else, next thing she knows the front room is ablaze because the child had lit the Christmas tree on fire.

    Keep fire AWAY from real Christmas trees, especially when they are dry!