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How to Choose a Christmas tree

How to Choose a Christmas tree

Earth Christmas Decoration. Image Credit: Christian Ferrari

Heading out to by a Christmas tree this weekend? Choosing a Christmas tree is a cherished Christmas tradition, but with so many options available it can be confusing. Is it more environmentally friendly to choose a reusable tree or a cut one? What about a live tree? Here’s a quick guide to the different types of Christmas trees and how to choose one for your home.

Cut Christmas Trees

Often found in parking lots from late November onwards, cut Christmas trees are ubiquitous and what many people had in their homes when they were growing up. Cut Christmas trees give off a beautiful scent of pine that really brings back strong memories and makes a house smell very Christmas-like.

While buying a cut tree does mean there is one less tree out there to produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, they are easily recycled at the end of the season and the City of Vancouver will pick it up and turn it into woodchips in January. Downsides of a cut tree include the large amount of pine needles it will drop, an increased risk of fire, especially if the tree isn’t watered sufficiently or Christmas lights are left on unattended, and the fact that a new one must be purchased each year.

Live Christmas Trees

Similar to a cut Christmas tree, live trees are real trees that are still attached to their roots, which are either wrapped up in a burlap sack or contained in a large pot. Live trees are best for families in houses where there is space to either plant or save the tree for next year. A live tree is one of the most environmentally friendly options, as no tree is killed and no toxic chemicals are given off. Live trees are also more expensive than cut trees, but if you are able to reuse the tree for three or four years then the cost will work out about the same.

Artificial Christmas Trees

Artificial trees are gaining in popularity for many reasons, but they may not be more environmentally friendly than a cut tree from a Christmas tree farm. It’s hard to beat an artificial tree for the convenience – they are low-maintenance to care for, generally easy to set up and you don’t have to cut a real tree down or haul it in your car in order to have a Christmas tree in your living room for three weeks a year.

On the other hand, artificial trees incur an environmental cost in their manufacture and disposal, and synthetic products such as PVC used in their production may give off unwanted toxins in the home, including lead dust. Each family must decide on their own priorities when deciding whether or not an artificial tree is right for them, but artificial trees that are 9 years old have a greater chance of releasing unhealthy chemicals.

Non-traditional Christmas Trees

For those who really feel like throwing tradition to the wind, you might consider using a large branch or collection of decorative spirals in place of a Christmas tree. This can be as environmentally friendly or creative as you wish! Decorating a potted shrub is another non-traditional choice that is environmentally friendly.

Christmas trees are the centrepiece of a home’s holiday decorations and the focus of many traditions. Choosing a beautiful, environmentally friendly, cost-effective tree means looking at your budget, personal priorities and space available to store a tree for next year.

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  • You forgot one VERY important type of tree: the Christmas tree that you cut yourself at a local family tree farm. Not only will this tree last much longer than a pre-cut tree, but it’s a chance to buy local and support a family farm during difficult economic times. Tree farms are not merely a place to get a tree, they provide a wonderful holiday activity for the whole family. Our favorite farm in the Fraser Valley is the Koole family’s “Country Noble Christmas Trees”. They’ll give you a wagon ride and hot chocolate by a warm fire. Please, check out their website:

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