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Christmas Trees and the Environmentalists Dilemma

Tis the season – we highly complex hominids decide it’s a good idea to put a pine tree in our homes despite warnings of fire hazards, sap all over the furniture, and pine needles throughout the house until springtime…

So, what’s this absurdity all about?

Well, there are stories that take us back over a thousand years, but according a very little bit of web research, it seems the first trees made it inside the house in the16th century by German preacher Martin Luther. According to the story, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. He went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars to come to earth at Christmas. And so he brought a tree inside to remind his of this observation and help celebrate the holiday. That is the simplest of stories behind the tree that I found, but seems reasonable in the context of this Blog.

Now, the environmentalists’ dilemma – why kill a tree to put it in your house? One can argue that most trees consumed by Americans are farm raised, so while it’s among the consumer waste that we middle-classers have become accustomed to creating through our bad consumer habits, it’s not any tremendous environmental impact…i.e. we’re not chopping down the rainforests. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, more than 100,000 jobs are created through Christmas tree farming, and for every one tree cut, three seedlings are replanted. All in all, this seems like an environmentally responsible harvest.

On the other hand, those that feel like they are sensitized to the trees’ plight may opt for a fake tree. Most fake trees are manufactured in Asia, so certainly no boost to the US economy other than the few port workers that unload the freighter and the few in the sales and distribution supply chain. The real concern here, in my opinion, is all of the plastic needed for manufacturing. More plastic means more fossil fuels, and more questionably sustainable exploitation of this natural resource.

In my opinion, despite my personal discontent in humping a 7 foot tall tree through my front door every year, this is probably the better bet for the environment, if forced to choose. The economics behind this are confusing however. Consider that today, one can purchase a fake tree for around $30. This is a one time purchase. Those partial to real trees are paying $30-$50 annually. Figure over a 30-year adult life cycle of hosting a Christmas event, that’s $900-$1500 spent on dead trees in your house. Can you say week of vacation?

Then again, we could always go virtual and just decorate online: http://www.whychristmas.com/fun/decorateatree.shtml but that doesn’t leave much space for presents under my laptop screen.

Ahh, what to do, what to do…give it some thought as you sit there staring at the lights, the ornaments, vacuuming up needles, figuring out the best sap stain remover while at the same time listening to the nightly news about how Trump will bring all sorts of manufacturing back to the US from China and elsewhere – oh, now here’s a real problem. The $30 retail fake tree will end up being $1500 for the made in the USA version so that the corporate execs can afford their island retreats where they keep the offshore tax shelters, all while gifting a $30 Amazon gift card as a tax-deduction so you can, yup – buy up the last of the fake trees from China before the new trade laws take effect and all new tree owners are forced to buy their $1500 trees… What has this world come to… sap, or no sap, that is the question?