How Green is Your Holiday Tree?

Tips for sustainable décor

This year, the gap between Thanksgiving and traditional Christmas is a narrow one. 

Many of us will be hauling out the holiday décor even before we get into turkey day leftovers. 
Before you hang the wreath or follow-up on that deal of the week to buy the pre-lit tree, think about greener options that might work for you this year.  

Natural or artificial tree?
Cutting down a perfectly shaped holiday tree to deck out for two weeks and then send to the trash heap sounds like an insult to Mother Nature.  Isn’t it logical that using the same artificial tree year in and year out saves trees, keeps debris out of the landfill and is the best way to live green at the holidays?  Compelling logic, but there’s more to the story.

While the pre-lit tree is tempting, you will go greener with a real tree.  Here’s why:    

  • An artificial tree must be used for 20 years to have a lower carbon footprint than a natural tree.
  • Grown trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide the entire time they are growing.
  • One acre of trees on a farm produces enough oxygen to support 18 people.
  • Trees grown on farms are grown sustainably – for every tree cut down, 2 to 3 more seedlings are planted.
  • Natural trees are recycled by most cities, so they don’t have to end up in the landfill.  They are ground into mulch that is used for hiking trails, gardens and other purposes.  

Tips for selecting and caring for a natural tree:

  • Pinch and sniff.  Pinch a needle to check for freshness.  When you smell a rich fragrance, that’s the sign of a fresh tree.
  • Remove a needle and bend it.  If it snaps like a carrot, the tree is fresh.
  • Before putting the tree in a stand, cut off at least an inch at the base of the trunk.  This new cut will allow the tree to absorb water.  
  • Water regularly.  The stand for large trees should hold at least one gallon of water.  Check the stand daily and refill the water to keep the tree fresh.  

Sustainable lighting for trees and garlands
You may still need to use your artificial tree, so a natural tree may not be for you this year.  Another way to take a sustainable step is to start replacing worn-out lights with LEDs.   Here are good reasons to go with LEDs:

  • Safety:  LED lights do not get hot like conventional lights to create a fire hazard or scorch plants.  
  • Fewer outlets required:  You can string a few dozen strands of LEDS end to end and plug the whole line into one extension cord connected to one power outlet without blowing the circuit.  
  • Less power:  LEDs use up to 90% less power than conventional holiday lights.  
  • Longer life:  LEDs last 4-5 times longer than conventional lights.  
  • Sustainable facts:  LEDs require less energy and because they need to be replaced less often, less material is used over the long term. 
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