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Oh, Christmas Tree!

November 22, 2011

Some of my best Christmas memories involve me bundling up my family and taking them for an adventure in what we pretend is the wild (e.g. tree farm) to find a perfect Christmas tree for the holiday season.

We choose THE tree. We take photos with the tree. We even bring a little bit of tinsel and a couple of bows to decorate the tree, getting into the holiday spirit and marking it as our very own for Christmas. Then we get it home, and the warm and wonderful smell of pine fills our house throughout the season. Next, we get out the big boxes and bins full of baubles, beads, bangles and balls for the tree. Everyone helps decorate. After we're finished, we sit near the tree and sip hot chocolate in our pajamas, marveling at how the lights and ornaments sparkle and shimmer until everyone starts to get tired. As I tuck each child in for the night, I swear I can see imaginary sugarplums dancing over their heads as they close their sleepy eyes.

Our favorite Christmas trees over the years have been Fraser firs, Douglas firs, white pines and scotch pines. And, yes, despite the abundance of artificial trees on the market, we still stick to our time-honored tradition of getting a real tree. Some people feel that getting a real tree puts them on Santa's naughty list when it comes to being "green." However, there are many environmentally friendly reasons a real Christmas tree can still be a big part of your holidays.

pine up close - freedigitalphotos

The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) says there are approximately 350,000 farm acres in production in the U.S. for growing Christmas trees, with each acre preserving green space and providing the daily oxygen requirements for 18 people. In its lifetime, a single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of carbon dioxide. With more than 350 million real trees growing in U.S. tree farms alone, that adds up to quite a bit of carbon sequestered.

The Canadian Christmas Tree Growing Association say about 40 million live trees are cut down each year for Christmas in North America - 5 to 6 million in Canada and approximately 35 million in the U.S.

Each year, approximately 93 percent of real Christmas trees are "treecycled," meaning the trees are returned back into the environment through more than 4,000 available U.S. recycling programs. Christmas trees are recycled into mulch for landscapes, gardens or chipped for use in playgrounds and hiking trails. Davey is part of a program in Georgia called "One for the Chipper," where people can take their Christmas trees to be recycled. Earth911.org and the NCTA keep a national database of treecycling providers.

Christmas trees can also be used for beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization and submerged for fish and wildlife habitat, the Sierra Club says. If you like to draw birds to your backyard, place your Christmas tree in your garden after the holiday and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Remove all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel and use fresh orange slices or strung popcorn to attract the birds. Within a year, the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand and add it to your compost pile or chip it in a chipper and use it as mulch.

To ensure a healthy supply of trees for Christmas each year, growers use sustainable farming practices. For each tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted the following spring, ensuring a healthy supply of trees, NCTA says. You can even purchase trees that are certified environmentally friendly by the Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers (CECG). They perform on-site farm inspections to ensure tree growers are using environmentally conscious methods to grow their trees.

tree - chrisroll

There are more than 15,000 farms growing Christmas trees in the U.S., and they provide jobs to more than 100,000 people, according to NCTA. And these are American jobs - while trees may travel from state to state, they don't travel overseas.

So, there's no need to feel like a Grinch this holiday season if you can't help but crave the tradition a real tree provides.

Even when real trees are challenging to get from farm to living room and shed some needles on your carpet, the investment in a U.S.-based product that comes from farms that provide tons of benefits in oxygen production and carbon sequestration and can be easily recycled back into the environment makes getting a real tree a real easy decision.

If you are still concerned, you can purchase a live potted tree for Christmas. Bring it into your home for two weeks to enjoy for the holidays and then replant it in your yard after Christmas. If you don't have the outside space, keep it in the pot outside to bring in and decorate again next year.

One of the best benefits of a real tree is that it has a life that goes on after Christmas, whether you're turning it into mulch or planting it in your yard. And your special Christmas memories live on with it.

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