In Canada and the United States, about 45 million trees are cut down at the beginning of the Christmas season, only to spend a few weeks dying in someone’s living room. Many of those trees are cut from native pine and spruce stands, instead of being farmed.
In more progressive cities, these trees are recycled by being made into chip mulch or compost once kicked to the curb, but this is a stop-gap solution that doesn’t get to the root of the problem inherent in logging for seasonal decor. Such an enormous seasonal destruction of habitat—and waste of timber—constitutes an environmental disaster, the wastefulness of which is rarely mentioned in all the consumption-driven coziness of the season.
So this Christmas season, consider the possibility of planting a life, instead of taking one.
Vendors like Real Christmas Trees in the United Kingdom have begun offering Norway Spruce with an intact rootball, which can be transplanted outdoors after the holidays. The Original Potted Christmas Tree Company in Oregon goes the extra mile, delivering a potted tree to your door, picking it up after New Year’s, and then re-planting the trees in watersheds and parks when the season is right. Similar services are cropping up all over the place.
If you don’t have such a service in your area, however, buying a tree with an intact root ball and planting it yourself is just as eco-friendly. Trees kept outdoors will be dormant, but will wake up in a living room. Accordingly, after the holidays are over, you keep the tree in a cool place, like a garage, in order to coax it back into dormancy, and by springtime, it will be ready for transplant out into a backyard or a park (with permission).
Even better, pick native or endangered potted conifers for your Christmas décor: This way, the Christmas tree tradition can be re-imagined as a tool for conservation, reforestation, carbon sequestration and habitat restoration.