Many homesteaders work hard to lower their impact on the planet in a negative way. What may be a simple decision for a non-homesteader becomes a challenging decision for someone who considers the environmental implications of their choice. This brings us to one of our big Christmas debates. Real Christmas tree or fake?
Before I begin, let me tell you that there is no right or wrong answer here. The decision you make for your Tannenbaum comes down to weighing pros and cons, and choosing the option wisely.
The Fake Christmas Tree
An artificial tree has less environmental impact if the tree is kept for five or more years and recycled or donated after use. When it compares to purchasing a live tree from a tree farm, the artificial tree wins hands-down. This becomes more and more true the further south you live, since most tree farms are located in the northern region of the U.S. and are trucked south.
Artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC. This plastic is stable and does not affect human health when used properly. Obviously, when burning, it’s still releasing fumes, but if your tree is on fire, you have bigger issues. PVC requires 70% less energy to manufacture than other plastic options and recycles well. If you purchase an artificial tree, make sure it’s PVC.
The Real Christmas Tree
We already compared farm-grown trees to artificial as far as energy usage, but consider this as well: Tree farming is a form of agriculture. We know that many agricultural facilities use pesticides and herbicides. Tree farms are no different. Unless you have an organic tree farm located in your own town, tree farms might not be a great option. Of course, the flip side of the coin is that proceeds from tree farm trees often go to great causes, such as the local fire department or children’s charity, but it’s okay to drop off a check without picking up a tree. Sorry guys, but this is one time I personally cannot support my local farmer.
Getting your tree from nature is a wonderful choice, but obviously it isn’t a choice available to everyone. If you have a friend or family member with lots of acreage, doing things “the old-fashioned way” is the greatest way to embrace the holiday spirit with little impact on the environment. Will your tree be perfectly manicured? No, but that quality gives your tree a bit of charm. I have been known to use an electric drill and a big drill bit to drill holes into the trunk of the tree and insert branches into the holes to fill the gaps. You can also hide holes or gaps by strategically positioning your tree and arranging your ornaments.
Now, real trees aren’t all bad. Thanks to “treecycling” programs all over the country, trees are being recycled for mulch, erosion control and landscaping practices. Yay! If you are a wood-stove owning homesteader, you can even chop and save your tree for next year’s fire. Make sure if you choose a real tree, you find out where you can recycle your tree. Our local transfer station offers this program on site.
Our Family Tradition
We are fortunate enough to have a family friend with plenty of trees for the taking. Going trudging through the woods to find the perfect tree with the kids is a tradition that I love. It’s very much like the Maine Christmas Song. We go and have lunch with our friends, exchange small gifts, select our trees, and help decorate theirs. There have been some serious Charlie Brown trees in our history, but the experience makes them the most perfect trees ever.
Is space an issue? Spring Mountain Living offers a great DIY Christmas tree for small spaces.
Regardless of the tree you choose, homemade ornaments are a great way to decorate your Christmas tree. Not only does it allow you to step back from the commercial aspects of the holiday, but it adds a homestead whimsy to your home.
Popsicle Stick Stars & Glitter Snowflakes from Cooke’s Frontier
Conifer Cone Ornaments from MomPrepares
Fabric Vintage Stars from Melissa K. Norris
Borax Crystal Ornaments and Decoupage Ornaments from SchneiderPeeps
Blown Egg Ornaments from The Free Range Life
and if you’re still looking, Chicken Scratch NY has a whole slew of ideas.
This Homemade Rag Quilt Wreath found on Melissa K. Norris may not fit on your tree, but it was so darling I had to share.
Timber Creek Farm has this great tradition for ornament boxes that is worth checking out. I love the idea.