Dec 20, 2012, 05:09AM

Green Christmas: Buy a Bulb Tree

Because you don't even want to mess with PVC.

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My family likes to get a bulb Christmas tree whenever possible. The kind you plant. This year my alpha male husband came home, shovel in tow, and we headed off to the tree farm. There is an art to digging up a tree and having it survive. We pretty much have it down. You can buy a bulb tree, the roots all neatly packaged in burlap, but since my husband loves to get dirty, I stroke the “boy” in him and let him dig.

For most Americans, the decision comes down to buying a cut live tree or getting a fake one. Last year, 28.2 million grown trees were sold; artificial trees tallied 11.7 million. And so the debate goes on: real vs. fake. Up until the 1930s, the only option was live. Then, Addis Brush, a U.S. toilet bowl brush company, created the first artificial tree made out of brush bristles.

Artificial trees have a fairly long shelf life before they begin to look shabby. I had a brief crush on a “Made in China”, purple faux tree at Wal-Mart this year. Unfortunately, artificial trees are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It’s nasty stuff.  PVC is the plastic that keeps on giving. Since it’s not biodegradable, it sits in landfills for an eternity, leaking lead and other strange substances. You’ll see warning labels on fake trees that state you should refrain from inhaling or eating any of the tree.

Buying a live cut tree is the other option. They come from tree farms. A tree farm is, well, a farm, and that in itself is good. The land is somewhat preserved for growing, although, a more useful product could be grown. Trees love to remove carbon dioxide from the environment and “breathe out” oxygen. The perfect combo for humans. One acre of trees provides enough oxygen to support 28 people. The live tree industry also uses a huge amount of fossil fuels. Harvesting, packaging and transporting is big business. At the tree farm this year, the chainsaw massacre was in full swing. The biggest downside to tree farming is that one quarter ounce of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are sprayed on the tree over its life span.

If you go the live route, try to find a recycling or tree cycling center. This is especially good for those of you who are guilt-ridden. Many communities offer curbside pick up. These trees are usually ground down into mulch. Or, keep the tree outside all year round. It makes a great wildlife habitat.

This debate runs right back to the turn of the century. Some of our ancestors were hip on the idea of Jacob’s Ladder. This festive centerpiece was just a matter of covering a stepladder with a sheet and then donning it with whatever you can find. Pinecones, branches and throw in a gift or two.

The verdict. Bulb trees are the optimal choice.

  • can't believe the first fake tree was from a toilet bowl cleaner company! so interesting! thanks for the article kathy!!

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