Last weekend the weather was beautiful in Pennsylvania, feeling more like spring than late fall, so we loaded the kids in the car and drove 2 miles to our local tree farm to tag our Christmas tree. It didn’t take us long to find the perfect Scotch pine—not too big, not too small. We tagged it and will go back in a few weeks to saw it down, tie it to the roof of the car, and bring it home.
Once the business of finding the tree was out of the way, we played hide-and-seek in the tree field. My three-year-old daughter is sort of new at hide-and-seek, so there was more giggling, screaming, and running than any actual hiding or seeking. It was a great way to spend the morning, and at nap time she slept soundly.
Some people think that getting a live-cut tree is wasteful or bad for the environment, but in fact it’s neither. No, artificial trees are the real environmental Grinch at Christmas time. Artificial trees are usually made from PVC and metal, and most likely imported from China. And there is evidence that artificial trees can lead to dangerous levels of lead exposure. Yeah, no thanks. I’ll take a real tree any day, preferably one that I cut down myself. Here are my reasons you should cut your own Christmas tree at a local tree farm:
1. Pine-scented air There’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh evergreen as it permeates the air of your house. It’s a smell that your kids will love and will forever associate with the holidays and feelings of home.
2. Sustainable agriculture Christmas tree farming is actually a pretty sustainable business model. The trees that are cut down this year will be replaced by new trees this spring and the cycle of life continues.
3. Support the local economy When you buy a tree from a local farmer, you are keeping your money in the local economy. Think about how connected our communities would be if we bought everything from the people who actually grew it or made it.
4. Good for the environment The average Christmas tree is in the ground for up to 15 years before it’s harvested, all the while providing habitat for wildlife and improving air quality by emitting oxygen. Christmas tree farms are a much better use for the land then, say, strip malls or housing developments.
5. You can recycle a live Christmas tree There are lots of great ways to reuse a Christmas tree: Chip it up and add it to your compost pile; use the branches to mulch your roses; set the tree up outside and decorate it with bird-friendly treats. Use it as a trellis for your peas or beans in the garden next spring.
6. Fun for the whole family What a great excuse to go tromping through a field with your kids. Fresh air, sunshine, holiday spirit—It’s a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday morning in December. Plus, most local tree farms give out cookies and hot chocolate.
7. Save Money Trees are generally cheaper when you go to a U-cut Christmas tree farm—sometimes by as much as $20 or $30.
8. Did I mention the pine-scented air? Yes, I did. But it’s worth mentioning again. You may be tempted to buy one of those precut trees that you see at roadside stands or supermarket parking lots. These trees are generally trucked in from far away, which means they have a slightly larger carbon footprint than a locally raised tree, so if you can, make the trek to your local tree farm.
Eric Hurlock is the online editor at Organic Gardening magazine. He lives and gardens in Chester County, PA, with his wife and 2 daughters.