by Eileen Weber
For years, my family had an artificial Christmas tree. It was a bit on the small side so my dad always shoved a box underneath to give it some lift. Its branches were a little weak and sparse. It also leaned to one side not quite fitting in its stand.
But when the final ornament was placed, I was always amazed that my dad had transformed this plastic version of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree into something full and almost life-like. Almost.
It wasn’t until I got married that my husband and I started the tradition of going out to the Jones Family Farm in Shelton and cutting our own tree. Although, I must blame my first child for that. With my pregnancy overdue by nearly two weeks, I thought climbing a big hill and chopping my own tree would induce labor. It didn’t. But, we got one heck of a nice tree that year.
For many people, visiting a farm to cut your own tree is a family event. In a New York Times article from last December about the growing trend in tree farms, Jamie Jones, manager of the Jones Family Farms, said increasingly more customers were making the trek as a fun family outing. “If someone wants a cheap, easy tree, there are lots of places, supermarkets, chain stores. This is about tradition.”
Unfortunately, purchasing a fresh Christmas tree still falls short in the tree market. Many people believe that the artificial tree is more environmentally friendly because you can buy it once and reuse it year after year.
Artificial trees are typically made of plastic and some wood. The plastics are made of polyvinylchloride (PVC), the same material used on plumbing pipes, or polyethylene (PE). Trees made from these materials, or any other oil- and lead-based materials, cannot be recycled. When you’re finally done with your own artificial Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it ends up in a landfill taking forever to break down.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, fresh trees, whether cut-your-own or balled, are actually more eco-friendly. They are the ultimate sustainable crop. For every one tree that gets cut down, more trees are planted to replace it.
At the Nantucket Historical Association, their two story Christmas tree was decorated with sustainable and natural items for an eco-friendly alternative. Dujardin Designs, a sustainable design firm with offices in Westport and Nantucket, decorated the tree. It was covered from top to bottom with artisan-made recycled paper ornaments embedded with wildflower seeds, LED lights that use 98% less electricity than conventional ones, fair trade recycled glass bead work, and real baby’s breath.
The tree was highlighted in their Festival of Trees event that began earlier this month. However, it is artificial because they cannot run the risk of any vermin or other pests that might come with a live tree inside the facility.
“One little girl thought she could plant the ornaments and get a tree by Christmas,” said Price Connors, a senior designer with Dujardin Designs. Connors said he was part of a three person team along with Trudy Dujardin, the company’s founder, and colleague Frank Fasanella to design the tree. He said the reaction was “very favorable” and many people commented on its “beauty and uniqueness”.
At Yale, the students at the Divinity School teamed up with the Forestry and Environmental Studies program to harvest a Christmas tree of their own for the second year in a row. The school has its own Christmas tree farm in northeastern Connecticut. The 12-foot tree is sustainable, locally grown, and organic.
If one of your last minute Christmas items is purchasing a tree, check out these local farms. Or go to localharvest.org and check out which farms are in your area.
Photo courtesy of Dujardin Designs.