Friday, December 4, 2009

Zero Waste Christmas Trees?

My local Whole Foods store is advertising Zero Waste Christmas Trees this season. These trees are live fresh Christmas trees cut and transported to New York from a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am confused by the label "Zero Waste". Obviously, it took a considerable amount of water resources to grow these trees and energy resources to cut them and bring them to my area. Zero Waste? Maybe after the tree is used and mulched back into the earth, the result would be zero waste, but when considering its total impact, it really can't be called zero waste.

In fact, I don't think any type of Christmas tree can be considered zero waste- not the artificial type that gets used year after year, or the live type which appears to be more natural and less environmental costly. Given that all Christmas trees make an impact of some kind, is there any real zero impact sort of solution that one can make in regard to Christmas trees?

Looking back to the origins of the Christmas tree, it seems Pagans had the answer on how to celebrate using no waste methods. During winter solstice celebrations, evergreen boughs would be cut and brought into homes as decorations to celebrate the return of the light. Nature respecting Pagans could not bring themselves to cut down an entire tree for something as silly as household decoration.

So maybe that is how we have gone astray. Rather than use just part of an evergreen tree to celebrate the holidays, we have moved to a place where we destroy the entire tree. Our disconnection from nature has allowed us to feel comfortable doing this. Taking clues from the Pagans, we can find some zero waste options. How about decorating a live tree that stands in your yard and not bringing a cut tree into your house? Or try cutting some boughs from a tree and bring them inside. I even read a post somewhere about how you can cut branches from an evergreen and arrange them in such a way that they look like a Christmas tree.

My family tradition is such that we cut a live tree each year and look forward to the experience of heading out to a local Christmas tree farm to find that perfect tree. The time spent as a family walking on the farm and drinking hot chocolate has always been a special time of togetherness. How do I change tradition for the good of creating zero waste? I think it would be pretty difficult and herein lies the problem. If I am unwilling to change my traditions for the good of the planet in this one area, how many other ingrained practices do I have that I am unwilling to change? Many I am sure, and that is what scares me.

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