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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
Stephanie Bingham says ...
I am on a hunt for potted Christmas trees. I searched online which lead me to Whole Foods however I am not seeing potted christmas trees on your site. Any help??
09/05/2015 9:54:08 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@STEPHANIE - We typically will not have Christmas trees in stock until closer to the holidays. We don't normally offer them during online ordering but if you check with your local store, they'll be happy to let you know if they will expect these this holiday season.
09/07/2015 12:27:44 PM CDT
Tanya Adamson says ...
I had my last artificial Christmas Tree for 15+ years before I decided to break it down into smaller pieces of greenery that I could use to create handmade Christmas wreaths. From one tree that was 7 feet tall I made 1 large and 3 small wreaths. The large one went on the front of my house at the center peak, of the 3 small wreaths, 2 of them were hung on my front porch rail and the 3rd one went on the front door. Even after making all of those wreaths I still had the top piece of my tree left over which I decided to use as a mini or table top tree for my own home. I love the idea of having more than one Christmas tree in my home and plan to make more in the years to come as friends and neighbors donate their aging artificial trees to me. Some will donate it for free and others will donate it with the request that I give them one of the wreaths that I'm able to make from the tree. In any case, I have been making wreaths and mini trees from others discarded artificial trees for a few years now and the great thing about them is that they can be used year after year........after year. They never really do wear out as long as they are stored away properly each year and they are great for beginner DIYers who want to recorate them with different accents or decorative pieces. One might say that an old artificial tree truly has 9 lives. I almost forgot......my old tree had a center pole that was made of wood and at just under 5 ft (the top piece added another 2 feet) that wooden pole or dowel was fashioned into several "trunks" used to give each mini tree a standard 1 1/2" diameter trunk that fits snugly into most standard sized tree stands. I simply cut the dowel into several 8 to 10 inch lengths (varies depending on overall length of the dowel) and drilled a hole in one end of each piece the diameter matching that of the stem on the bottom of the mini tree. This "stem" fit snugly into the hole in the larger diameter "trunk" piece which in turn fits snugly into the center of any standard tree stand to hold that mini tree firmly. This is a valuable feature if you have any cats in your house due to they could completely tip any mini tree that wasn't "planted" firmly into a well balanced tree stand. Happy recycling to all you DIYers. I hope this idea inspires you all to reuse old trees and create new and beautiful holiday decorations for your friends and loved ones to enjoy for many years to come.
11/22/2015 12:10:06 PM CST
Donna says ...
Personally, I think there is nothing like the real thing for fragrance, uplift and pure beauty. This is, I am sure, the real reason why people started to bring evergreen trees and branches into the house during the Holidays. To brighten the home and spirits, the aromatherapy effect from the real trees is an unbeatably beautiful experience. Do we call agree? Fake trees? Ugh. This misses the point and teaches our society to accept artificiality and sterility as "Normal". It is Not! Still, I can understand both sides of this debate. The Fake Tree Touters are concerned about killing trees, whereas those who actually grow them state that since they replant and they grow without need for watering, etc that they make very little environmental impact. All profiting aside, I believe them since the Christmas Tree Industry is so large that replanting new trees only makes sense. Waste, environmental impact? If the trees are sentient beings then yes, it is tragic to cut them down and throw them away. If they are not sentient, the environmental impacts, I believe, may be minimal (I am not an authority on this subject, so I can only guess). I do not work for the industry nor have any inside connections.
12/08/2015 4:01:05 AM CST