STOP! And consider what you are about to do…

It’s me, Darryl.  Your favourite opinionated blogger.

Okay, here is my semi-annual beef.

The Christmas tree.

The pros and cons of an environmentally ethical vs a manufactured environmentally unethical christmas tree.

Be pre-warned, I’m not very good at being perfectly neutral about some topics.  I’m just like you in that regard, so please afford me the same grace you would like from me.  I probably need it more anyway.

Oh, and feel free to state your opinions/preferences in the comments.

The pros of the ethical tree:

They’re sustainable.  It only takes 5-7 years to grow another one.

Farmed trees are a business that supports your local families, which directly contributes to your economy and helps in a small way to keep your community strong.  Small businesses are what sustain a nation.

The variety of size and shape is staggering.  Not one tree is the same as another.

The tree you buy/cut is recyclable.  You can chip it yourself, burn it for heat in the spring, or most communities have a tree-pick-up program and they recycle the trees.  Nothing goes to waste.  It’s a completely green product.

Trees smell good.  Actually, trees smell great.

Pine trees produce a natural pheromone that relaxes you.  You could use a little more of that this Christmas, right?

If you cut it down yourself at the beginning of December, it will hardly drop any needles until around the end of January (trust us, we know).

A Christmas tree hunt is an awesome way to spend time with your family, or if you’re like us, with family and friends.  Picking your own personal tree that has character (as much or as little as you want) is very satisfying at some core level inside you.

It’ll cost you significantly less to drive way up into the backcountry than to purchase a farmed tree, or especially a manufactured tree.  Trees out in the back country hardly cost a dime.  Maybe a dime to print out the free permit that you need.

The tree will look different every year.  Guaranteed.

You can sleep at night with a clear conscience (more on that later).

The cons:

Those big resin ornaments that weigh a ton?  Probably too heavy, even for the lower branches.

Prickly and sappy. (Note here, peanut butter works awesome for sap removal)

It may cost you an afternoon of fun frolicking in the snow and a little sweat to cut it down.

You may have to trim the tree (more sweat).

Blue spruce are especially prickly.  Gloves are a must, even for us seasoned tradesmen.

The tree will look different every year.  Guaranteed.

You have to water it about 3 times.

You may have 4 – 10 needles to pickup every day.  Maybe.

You’ll still have a couple of needles to sweep/vacuum after you roll up the blanket that was under the tree.  Three minutes you are never going to get back.

Pros of the unethical tree:

It’s perfect to look at.  Maybe too perfect, but lets overlook that.

Suspends heavy ornaments and possibly small children from many branches.

Some of them come pre-lit.  This helps offset set-up time.

You don’t have to water it.

It resembles a real tree.

It’ll look the same every year.

It’s not particularly flammable.

The Cons:

How many hours did you work at that job doing something you don’t like so you could buy that tree anyway?

A nice tree cost more than I would spend on food in a month.  You could feed a starving child for a couple of years or maybe buy two or three families a rickshaw to help them earn an income (see “Gospel for Asia’s Christmas gift catalogue for other great gift ideas, some of them totally inexpensive!).

Every year it takes several hours to assemble and disassemble your fake tree.  HOURS of your life you will never get back.

Year three: Where the heck is branch L5 with the green dot?  Did I lose it?

Year five:  Some of the branches on my $500 tree don’t light up anymore, and I still can’t find branch L5 with the green dot.  I think it got lost.

You have to handle every single branch, and “fluff” them individually.

I’ve never ever seen anyone actually enjoy the process of building their fake tree.  I’ve seen them happy that it’s done, but everyone is usually pretty miserable when putting it together.  Maybe you’ve had a different experience?

It takes about 1 litre of oil and 1 litre of water to produce a 1 ounce microchip.  How many litres of water and oil do you suppose were needed to make that Christmas tree?  And it’s not like you can choose a tree that was only made with Canadian oilsands oil.  The tree you have was probable made with oil from some third-world, woman-abusing, human-rights-non-existent oil conglomerate of a country like China or Venezuela or Iran.  Hugely unethical.

When you eventually throw your tree away, it’ll take hundreds, maybe even a thousand years for it to break down, and not into any kind of nutrients for the soil, but terrible carcinogenic toxins that will leech into groundwater in the future.

Where the heck am I going to store my tree in a coffin-sized box?  Where would you store a body?

What the heck? Are those needles that I (still) have to sweep/vacuum?  Plastic ones?  At least they’re not from the dirty outdoors.  Alas, three more minutes I’ll never get back.

Thankfully, a fake Christmas tree isn’t a moral choice, so going to hell for it probably won’t come up on judgement day.  It’s just an ethical one.

Merry Christmas!

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4 thoughts on “STOP! And consider what you are about to do…”

  1. Good post – I SO agree with you, Darryl! How I long for real, wonderful living Christmas trees; the look of them… their wonderful smell, the way the feel when you brush your hand against the fragrant needles. Had to switch to the fake tree because of the expense long ago, and have no way to get where I can find a real one, living in the forest. Being stuck with a fake tree, I find I’m actually (slowly) loosing interest in having one at all. They start to look shabby after awhile…. and you’re stuck with it. Ugh.

  2. I don’t disagree with anything particular you said about REAL trees, Darryl, but if we’re going to get into the ethics of buying plastic products because of where the oil came from…that is a darn slippery slope! I mean seriously, our society is addicted to oil, like it or not. Half of what we buy is derived from oil. If people bought a new artificial tree every year or 2 and disposed of them regularly, I could see some concern. But Bryan and I bought our tree 8 years ago for $60…not $500. So by the end of year 2 it had payed for itself and we’ve saved roughly $250 since then. It takes 10 minutes to put together and it only has 3 pieces – like a snowman. We’ve never lost one of the pieces. 🙂 Fluffing it takes another 10 minutes. I really do like real trees, and agree with you in principle that people should be careful what they buy and then throw away. We bought our tree for long-term financial reasons, and haven’t regretted it. Store-bought trees are really expensive and getting your own only works if A.) you live anywhere near evergreen trees that don’t belong to somebody’s windbreak, and B) You’re into the hike into the woods to get a tree. It’s definitely not a choice for everybody. I’d like to have a real tree now and again to break things up a bit. The artificial one can still be backup for years we can’t pay that, or we just want to bring out the tree that’s close to home.

  3. D:
    Obviously if you can buy a tree that is twice the cost of a farmed tree and make it last 8 years, and can be stored inside of a box that fits in your closet’s top shelf, it’s a good deal. Or if you live in a barren wasteland, it may be hard to find trees that are suitable for christmas trees – that’s not really within the scope of the article (which some thought was already lengthy).
    As far as ethical oil issues, I would say the vast majority of Canadians do not realize they have been mislead by media moguls about what is and is not environmentally friendly. While our dependence on oil is not in dispute, we should be greatly concerned about where we are getting the oil from if we truly want to be environmentally (and ethically) conscientious on a global scale.
    As an aside, anyone who tells you that wind and solar on a grand scale is feasible and/or cleaner energy than oil is either misinformed or deceiving you. Even nuclear energy won’t meet the world’s coming energy needs if we built one reactor every day for the next fifty years (we would then have to start decommissioning the first one, and building another to replace it). Until we have a realistic alternative energy source for oil, we may as well be grateful for what God has given us, and try to manage it more effectively.

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