Mother Earth Monday: A live tree or no tree? In our house we debate replacing our tattered 12-year-old artificial holiday bush with a real “recycled” tree, still in a bucket of dirt, with a home in the yard during the off season. Or skip the indoor tree custom and decorate with lighted, ornamented garlands and put treats on the evergreens outside for birds to eat!
Climate change is helping spur our decisions, and as ThinkProgress reports, tree crops in both Vermont and New Hampshire have been seriously compromised this year following an unexpected early heat wave in March and a summer of flash floods. So what does a good boy do to please Santa on this point?
Localized extreme flooding has been said to cause a decrease in Christmas tree crop, and scientists have repeatedly linked increased unexpected flooding events caused by a warmer, moister climate to man-made global warming. In 2012, drought and heat in Wisconsin and Michigan caused the loss of about 4,000 young trees — about half of their new crop. One Illinois farmer called that year’s loss of young trees the worst he’d seen in 55 years, with almost all of the several thousand trees he planted in the last two years dead from lack of water.
Tradition demands we kill at least one tree and turkey each year, or does it? Wikipedia claims variations on the custom of tree worship, and mid-winter decoration go back thousands of years, but our modern version with mass consumption is as wasteful as most of the rest of our civilization. Americans just love Christmas. It is one of the few holidays that provides a cultural tradition for our not-so-new nation of immigrants. But are there other choices? St. Joseph’s plant biologist Clint Springer says we have a number of options, starting with no artificial trees! Here are his other suggestions for a more eco-conscious holiday celebration:
- Consider using LED lights to decorate the house. A typical 50-light strand of C7 bulbs, often used for outdoor lighting, uses approximately 99 percent more energy than an LED strand of the same number of lights.
- Buy local and sustainably farmed produce for holiday gatherings. This lessens the use of fossil fuels for transportation, cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global climate change.
- Buy organic produce. Though pricey for some families, buying organic produce is an even better choice for party season. Organic food is not farmed with artificial fertilizers, which require a tremendous amount of fossil fuels to produce.
- Recycle whenever possible. Consider using wrapping paper or boxes made from recycled material and be sure to recycle them once the gift giving is over.