How to Find a Locally Grown Christmas Tree

chistmas tree farmLast month, I did a little research to find out if I was breaking any “green laws” with my yearly real Christmas tree. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I discovered that many environmentalists are pro-real Christmas trees over artificial trees. Why is it considered more environmentally friendly to cut down trees than have an artificial tree that can be used year after year?

  • Most Christmas trees are grown on tree farms – they are considered an agricultural product. They are sustainable, and for each tree that is cut, at least one more tree is planted.
  • Tree farms are usually planted on soil that doesn’t support other types of agriculture.
    In the US there are about 1 million acres dedicated to tree farming. Each acre provides enough oxygen for 18 people.
  • Tree farms reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and help counter-balance this global warming thing we keep hearing about.
  • Real trees are easily recycled. Many communities offer curbside pick up in the weeks following Christmas and turn the trees into mulch.
  • Every state in the U.S. grows Christmas trees. It is possible to get a tree that is locally grown.
  • Unless you’re allergic to them, real Christmas trees are better for your family’s health once they are inside the home. Fake Christmas trees contain PVC. “According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, the manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemical known. Released into air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions and impairing children’s development.” (source – christmastree.org).
  • Fake Christmas trees are not recyclable and will sit for hundreds of years in a landfill leaching PVC, lead and other contaminants into the soil.

This was enough to convince me that a real tree is the way to go, but this year, I’m going to make sure that our Christmas tree is local. In years past, we’ve gone the convenient route of running to the local big box home improvement store’s gardening department for our tree. The store may be in our town, but the trees sold in them aren’t always local. They could be shipped from anywhere in the country. A tree shipped from far away means a big carbon footprint for our Christmas tree.

So, how can you make sure your tree is local? I see two ways.

  1. Ask. If you are going to a tree lot, ask where the trees originated. If you’re comfortable with the miles they have traveled, go ahead and buy from the tree lot.
  2. Buy directly from a local tree farm. I found two convenient resources for finding tree farms throughout the U.S. Both Gardens.com and Christmas Tree Farm Network allow you to search by state for local tree farms.

If you do go the route of buying a real tree, make sure that you dispose of it properly. If your community doesn’t offer a curbside pick-up that will take the tree to be turned into mulch or compost, go to National Christmas Tree Association to find out where you can take it.

Image courtesy of Jagwired on flickr

  1. Julie Bonn Heath

    This is a great post. Thanks. Also, people should note that when trees are cut, they normally leave some limbs and many trees can re-grow. Regrowth is not necessarily usable for new display trees, but the limbs can be used in various greenery, like wreaths, and do still provide O2. ~Julie

  2. Pamela J. Betz-Baron

    One year, I decided to see if I could find an organic tree grown locally. I searched the web for “organic christmas tree [mystate]” and found a great place fairly nearby. It is a huge tree farm, run by an older couple and their family. They have tractors to take you into and out of the “fields”, and they put mesh around the tree and put itin or on your car for you. They also have a warming house with free hot chocolate. They have several species to choose from, and the price is the same no matter what size you get. It’s great!

  3. Pamela J. Betz-Baron

    Also, we keep our back yard somewhat wild, so we just put our used trees back there to decompose and provide shelter for the wildlife.

  4. suzanne ellinwood

    Thanks for this post. I have always felt vaguely guilty about buying fresh trees, and it’s nice to know that tree farms and cut trees really are the better option.

  5. gianlu

    thanks for the advices.
    I agree with not using a fake christmas tree, but I’m really against the fact of cuttting a tree even if grown to be cutted.

    There are some providers e.g Ikea (at least in Rome)that are providing the service of taking back trees and re-planting them.
    There are a lot of doubts also on this service:
    where are they taking back the plants (they should do that locally)
    will the plants really survive with ont their roots during the christmas period?

    So I’m not sure but it would be better to find an alternative solution to simply cut the trees.

  6. Bobby B.

    I prefer a real tree because they can be sunk in a river or lake to create structure for a fishing hole. It may not be considered environmentally friendly, but it definitely creates opportunities for quality family time. Few things top fishing with one’s children.

  7. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Bobby… I think, on a broad scale of activities, fishing is pretty far down in terms of environmentally harmful activities (fishing like you do it, anyway). Sure, you’ll create some emissions with your boat, but as long as you’re following rules of catch limits, etc., I’d think it’s a pretty benign activity. And, it has the benefit of giving your kids a chance to interact with the natural world… and that’s incredibly valuable.

  8. Bobby B.

    Like I have said before, breaking the rules when fishing or hunting in Louisiana is not worth the risk. The Department of Wildlife & Fisheries is the most powerful law enforcement agency in the state. They don’t even need warrants to come into one’s home (and some people think The Patriot Act is invasive). Convicted poachers almost always lose the privilege of hunting or fishing for the rest of their lives, assuming they are lucky enough to avoid jail. Besides, following the rules when taking game and fish helps to insure that the privilege is not legislated away from future generations.

    As far as emissions go, my 4-stroke outboard is California approved and probably greener than most people’s car. However, I purchased it for its fuel efficiency and quiet operation.

    Letting the kids interact with the natural world is valuable, but creating a situation where they can interact with their parents is priceless. I believe that what’s wrong with each subsequent generation results from the preceding generation’s lack of interest in being proper parents.

  9. Justin Van Kleeck

    Well said, Bobby…but why make it an either or situation with the kids? Interaction between generations–kids, parents, grandparents–in nature is a great way to build family bonds while also laying a good foundation for environmental awareness and responsibility. A strong family is the heart of a strong society, and an appreciation of nature is the heart of a sustainable society. It would be great if the definition of a “proper parent” included introducing children to nature and teaching them how to treat it with respect…so they can enjoy it with their children and grandchildren.

    You are doing a good thing, Bobby, and I thank you.

  10. Bobby B.

    Justin – We actually do meet the maternal grandfather on the water from time-to-time. The kids take turns fishing with “paw paw” in his boat and have a ball. We all abide by the rules, practice catch-and-release, and only keep what we intend to eat.

    Now that my boys are a bit older, I hope to start taking them camping and small game hunting. Although I know that hunting is discouraged in most green circles, real hunting requires about 99% observing nature and 1% discriminantly taking game. IMHO, hunting can be used as a positive educational tool. One can learn to respect a weapon, to use it safely, and to develop shooting skills. Hunting teaches that killing is an action with a permanent consequence. Unlike cartoons, video games and television, no creature has more than one life and taking a life cannot be undone. Everyone inherently knows this, but few truly appreciate it. Hunting also teaches that the harvesting of meat is not as “clean” as the experience that most of us have when visiting the grocery store. If you are going to be a meat eater, the experience of harvesting, cleaning, and preparing the meat provides one with a greater appreciation of it. I am actually surprised that vegetarians don’t require prospective vegetarians to clean at least one small animal. The experience alone might make them lifelong vegans. πŸ˜‰

    There are other lessons to be learned about finding one’s way in (and out of) the woods, leaving nothing behind, and just enjoying getting away from town.

  11. Amy

    Good points, but not the full facts. Most christmas tree farmers utilize a significant amount of pesticides and chemical weed suppressants during the process(which typically takes a minimum of 8-10 years until the first crop is ready). These chemicals seep into the ground and eventually into the groundwater table. If you have access to locally grown, ORGANIC christmas trees, that is a much better option than the typical christmas tree.

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