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Zero Waste: Christmas Trees

By Jill Velez, November 29, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jill Velez
GreenMission We're on a roll now with our "Zero Waste Holidays" blog posts. (Read about greening holiday cards and holiday lights.) North Americans produce 25% more waste during the winter holidays - that's 25 million extra tons of garbage going to the landfill. The Whole Foods Market Green Mission Team has gathered our favorite tips to feature on this blog throughout the holidays to help us all reduce our load. Our customers are some of the greenest folks around, so please share your tips with us too. Hopefully we'll help each other discover new and creative ways to live lighter on the planet this holiday season. Christmas Trees treesMore than 50 million trees are sold each Christmas and it's estimated that 30 million of those end up in our landfills. Yikes! How to help:
  • Buy a real, cut tree from a sustainable source. Go local if available.
  • Avoid trees sprayed with chemical preservatives to protect indoor air quality.
  • After the holiday, have your tree mulched into wood shavings for use in local parks and forests. Many communities offer drop-off or collection service.
  • Avoid flocked or spray painted trees and don't decorate with tinsel since these cannot be ground for mulch.
  • Choose a live, potted tree with its roots still attached from an ecologically sustainable source and plant it in your yard after Christmas.
  • If planting a live tree after the holidays, dig your hole for the tree before the ground freezes. Fill the hole with leaves and cover it. Then after the holidays, you simply rake out the leaves and place the balled tree into the hole. Back fill it with compost. It will do fine until the springtime when you can add water and any other necessary soil amendments.
  • Avoid artificial trees that are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a particularly toxic plastic, and these trees are typically not recyclable.
Now it's your turn. What green tricks do you have up your sleeve for a green tree?




screwdestiny says ...
Huh, I always thought artificial trees were the "green" way to go. I know they aren't easily recyclable, but isn't it better to re-use that artificial tree every year than to buy a new tree every single year, just to get rid of it?
11/30/2009 12:06:17 AM CST
Sue says ...
But after so many years, what do you then do with the fake Xmas tree? It's not just that many cannot be recycled, it's also the costs involved in creating those trees. I try to buy locally grown trees, so the trucking costs are reduced. And I always recycle my tree by donating it to the local composting/mulching pile. I never use tinsel or fake snow, and always use as many handmade ornaments as I can. The lights I now use are LEDs (which really are quite pretty once you get used to them).
12/01/2009 12:23:10 PM CST
arockonthesea says ...
I suppose that if one's real Christmas tree is going to be mulched in to wood chips for re-use in parks or around one's own yard, that's a greener approach to using real trees, but my 7 year-old artificial tree is still like new and I'm not going to toss it out just to start buying real. 7 trees are still in the forest! In ten years when I am holding my artificial tree together with invisible twine I will consider how best to recycle it, and either start getting real trees, or by then there might be a "greener" artificial option! The greenest approach would be to decorate a tree still planted in your own yard! Use natural materials to decorate of course, or ornaments made out of birdseed to feed the birds wintering over in your area. You won't have to cut the tree down to enjoy it and it will be with you year after year.
12/01/2009 12:27:29 PM CST
Scott says ...
Don't buy one and have a virtual tree instead - just a thought!
12/01/2009 1:03:54 PM CST
Emma says ...
Likewise! Friends & I were just talking about where to buy a tree from to be eco friendly. My tip:Forget the wrapping paper! What a waste of money, time & effort! Wrap in newspaper & use twine or buy recycled paper.
12/01/2009 2:56:29 PM CST
Kira says ...
Buy a real tree and when you take it down, put it somewhere in your yard. The tree will serve as a hiding place for small animals during the cold months. We later cut it into smaller pieces and use it as firewood.
12/01/2009 3:06:22 PM CST
Condo Blues says ...
I think the greeness of real vs fake Christmas trees largely depends on your preference or situation. Both have good and bad points. For every person who says a real tree is easily recycled or planted after the holiday, there's a real tree thrown in a roadside ditch as litter (yes, it will biodegrade but so do paper cheeseburger wrappers but we consider those litter too.) For every person who says plant the tree after is another who lives in a climate that won't support it's natural growth or lives in a situation (like renters) who can't do that either. For every person who says that fake trees are just thrown away is another who points out that their tree is XX years old and still in use or said that they donated their old one to a needy family. And it's rarely brought up on the fake tree debate, that not all fake trees are made of PVC. I've seen some creative wood, paper/cardboard, and retro aluminum reusable trees that I wouldn't mind having in my home next to a real Christmas tree.
12/02/2009 12:53:01 PM CST
Louise Howard says ...
Try a "flat tree" My sister did this years ago when she lived in a tiny apartment. A regular Christmas tree would have taken up half the floor space of her little living room and she wanted the effect of a big tree rather than a table top tree, so she trimmed some branches off an evergreen in her yard. She set a tall straight branch with just a tuft of green at the top in the tree stand against the wall and then tied trimmed branches onto the "trunk" - first the larger branches on the bottom and then smaller branches as she proceeded upward. she ended up with a half tree in just the shape she liked because she trimmed each branchlet to suit her visual sense of design. The whole effect was great and did not look artificial - because it wasn't.
12/03/2009 11:56:12 AM CST
Jim Russell says ...
As a wholesaler tree grower in the northwest, we shipped a sample group of trees to Whole Foods this year. Hopefully, they were well received. We are a member of the Christmas Tree Coalition which is governing body that conducts random and frequent field studies to determine your environmental impact of growing trees. Many people do not realize if the proper tree is grown in the correct area the rancher does not need to fertilize, treat for disease or even water the trees. They grow 100% organically. Within weeks of tree harvest we are replanting new trees. On average a noble fir will grow about 1 foot per year, so in 6 years we will harvest another 6 foot tree. As a rancher we must keep the ground productive, we do not cut and run so to speak. What to do with your tree after Christmas? If you live in the city most cities grind your tree into pulp, sawdust or compoast for fertilizer. If you live in the country, trees can be worked into your soil and degrade in about 1 year. We have even given left over trees to forest and stream reclamation groups to be used in burn areas to reduce soil errosion or used in rivers, lakes and ponds for fish habitat. So please, consider buying a tree grown from the ground, not a tree made from synthetic pvc loaded with lead and dioxin. You will be sustaining natural agriculture in this country while purchasing a real "green" product. Happy Holidays! Jim Russell Whitewater Ranch, Leaburg OR Operations Manager
12/10/2009 3:12:45 PM CST
Vince Vega says ...
Dear Real Tree or imposter Tree, I also live here in the great northwest where we have nothing but trees. I infact live in the heart of some of the largest tree growers around. Here is the bottom line. One of our greatest resources here in the North West is Trees and We must get our country back working again, so I propose we make it very simple. PUT AWAY/HIDE/STASH all those FAKE Trees and have some family fun each year rain or snow, put those boots on and take a friend or the family and get yourself a real tree. In buying that real tree, you help employ somone which can in return buy some presents to put under their REAL TREE for their kids. And after Christmas has ran its course, you have the oportunity to help again by either giving your local Boy Scouts $5 to take that tree and grind it up or simply give it back to our beautiful Mother Earth. PLEASE !! DO NOT throughit back with UNNATURAL MATERIALS ON IT !!!! ( fact:) "younger trees filter more Co2 than older trees do"
11/07/2010 11:45:03 PM CST
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08/07/2011 10:18:47 AM CDT
Keith says ...
I agree.. stop the waste.. Buy an Artificial Christmas Tree that you can use over and over again. No mess, no problem and store for next year .. Even the waste disposal people need a break !
10/02/2011 5:32:22 AM CDT
Lyda Vallee says ...
I believe that for a store like Whole Foods to sell trees is like going against for what they stand for. I know it is still a profit driven corporation but they should not sell trees. The difference between a plastic tree and a real tree is that "one is alive" and you have "to kill it" in order to decorate your living room. What would you do if "I shall not kill" actually includes animals and plants.......????????? If you need a tree to brighten up your holidays, buy a plastic one, please.
12/03/2011 9:46:29 AM CST
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12/09/2011 5:47:31 AM CST