For most Americans, Thanksgiving is somewhat of a gateway-holiday–that last hurdle between you and the unrestrained ability to blast Christmas music and cover your home with tinsel.
The weeks right after Thanksgiving are also when most people start thinking about when and where to purchase a Christmas tree.
Most families will take this magical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to visit tree farms or grocery stores across the country in an effort to find the perfect one for their home. However, in as little as a month, many of these trees will end up on the curb–hopefully–to be recycled or simply thrown into the trash pile to be sent to a landfill. Each year, approximately 50 million trees are purchased in the United States. Of those, 30 million end up in landfills.
Although there are plenty of organizations and methods to recycle old Christmas trees, there is another option that creates a full-circle sustainability cycle for your decorating needs: purchasing a living evergreen tree and replanting it once the holiday season has ended.
Live Christmas trees are slightly more expensive and require some legwork, but this option saves millions of pounds of waste from landfills and gives you the opportunity to beautify your landscape for years to come.
Living trees, when replanted, also have the added benefit of becoming habitats for local animals, removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and producing oxygen for human consumption.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, here are some tips for keeping your live Christmas tree flourishing before and after the holiday season:
- Check with a verified nursery or extension forester to make sure you are purchasing the correct species of tree for your region.
- Living trees are significantly heavier and bulkier than cut trees. Be prepared for it to weigh as much as 250 pounds.
- Dig your replanting hole before you purchase the tree and fill the hole with mulch to prevent freezing. This way, if the soil freezes, you will still be able to plant your tree.
- Routinely check the root ball to make sure it’s damp, but not completely flooded. The National Christmas Tree Association recommends wrapping the root ball in plastic while in the house.
- Decorate the tree gently. Do not use Christmas lights that give off heat.
- Once the holiday season ends, the live tree will need time to adapt from the warm indoors to the cold outdoors. Transition the tree to a sheltered area–such as a garage–for a few days before planting.
- When replanting, do not remove the burlap or strapping unless it is plastic. Also, do not attempt to remove any dirt from the root system.
- After replanting, mulch over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing and stake the tree to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.
Although live Christmas trees are not for everyone, I would urge you against purchasing an artificial one. Most man-made trees contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal.
An artificial tree may survive ten years of reuse but will last for centuries in a landfill.
Have you tried a live Christmas tree? How do you consciously decorate your home for the holidays?
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