By Lauren Olszaniecki
It’s the time of year when approximately one-and-a-half million families across Canada get ready to buy their Christmas tree. My family has never been one of those, but my mom’s family was.
“It’s about the experience,” she says fondly. The experience of what? Visiting rows and rows of nearly identical pine trees in the chilly weather, cutting down the tree, strapping it to your roof, and driving home? Sounds like a hassle to me.
Honestly, it’s more than a hassle; it’s just wastefulness. It goes like this: clear-cutting a myriad of diverse species to grow the same type of tree for years on end, just to get a harvest right before winter.
Winter is the time of year when the fewest trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and having to cut down the evergreen trees exactly when they’re needed is wasteful. Getting rid of all those potential carbon sinks is really, really not eco-friendly.
I mean, I guess it provides fresh air while it shrivels up in the purchaser’s house, decked out in gaudy plastic ornaments and lights… which presents another problem.
The cycle of Christmas trees year after year is a metaphor for the human impact on the environment. Destroy the natural world, dress it up, then get rid of it. So much effort and growth are thrown away in a fraction of the time taken to cultivate it, and the remains exist for just as long.
Even ornaments have to be made somehow, and if they are truly valuable mementos, then they can be out all year round. The holiday decor business is lucrative, unfortunately, and it’s amplified by the number of trees purchased.
The tradition used to be to put candles on the (very flammable) pine tree, so current tree decorations are definitely less of a fire hazard, although I don’t presume to know everyone’s decor preferences. Children and pets can also be hurt by its needles, or by improper stabilization and setup of the tree itself.
When you decorate for the holidays in the upcoming weeks, consider skipping purchasing a tree this year. If you do decide to get a real tree, please make sure it’s worth it, then make sure it’s sustainably bought and disposed of!