By N. GLENN PERRETT
Real or artificial? When it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, most people have a definite preference.
Many people like the traditional cut trees. Scotch pine, Norway spruce, Douglas fir and Balsam fir are some of the popular species of Christmas trees.
Artificial trees have become popular with many people for a variety of reasons. Both real and artificial trees have their advantages, but they also have their drawbacks as well. Not comfortable with either of these options, my wife Lynn and I opted to create our own festive “tree”.
There are pros and cons for both real and artificial Christmas trees. Proponents of using cut trees often point out that Christmas tree farms offer several benefits. They provide oxygen, remove carbon dioxide and other airborne pollutants, stabilize soils, help to reduce flooding and provide shelter for animals.
There’s also a negative side. These farms use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, all of which negatively impact the environment. The trees are also cut down when they’re only five or six feet tall. There are more productive ways to use the land for growing trees.
Artificial trees are not without their problems as well. Probably their major fault is that they are made from plastics and metals which aren’t readily biodegradable. So, when they are thrown out in the garbage not only will they take up valuable space in the landfill, but they will not biodegrade for many years.
On a more positive note, using an artificial tree means that you’re not using a real Christmas tree each year. If your artificial tree lasts for several years it will be less expensive than purchasing a real tree every year.
Several years ago Lynn and I decided to stop buying cut Christmas trees. Killing a healthy tree so that it could be used as a festive decoration for two or three weeks didn’t make sense. We felt that the land used to grow Christmas trees could be better used – like growing native trees for planting purposes. More land used to grow trees for this reason would result in the trees being more affordable for homeowners to plant in their yards and for people with larger properties to reforest their land.
However, the thought of putting presents under an artificial tree never appealed to us. We also knew that discarding an old, artificial tree in the garbage was not good for the environment. Since both Lynn and I grew up in homes where real Christmas trees, with their wonderful fragrance, held a prominent location in the house, we wanted something similar.
What Lynn and I wanted was a Christmas tree that looked, felt and smelled like a tree, but which had little, if any, impact on the environment. We decided to create our own “tree.”
Our Christmas tree was created by using branches from evergreen trees on our 25-acre property. By cutting anywhere from four to six branches we were able to make a “tree” which looked pretty good and which had a nice fragrance.
Our Christmas tree usually contains one main branch and several smaller ones. The main branch is either a bough from a white or red pine tree or a white spruce tree. Smaller branches can also be from these trees as well as cedar and balsam fir.
Our tree has many benefits and I can’t think of any drawbacks. Not only is it fun to go out as a family and gather these branches, but a tree hasn’t been killed in the process. Carefully removing a lower branch from a large tree does not harm it – and we try to use branches that need to be cut off anyway, like those growing across the walking trails on our property. When our Christmas tree begins to dry out, we place it outside where it will provide shelter for animals before returning to the earth.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Whether you are spending it at the cottage or at home, consider creating your own environmentally-friendly Christmas “tree” made from evergreen boughs.