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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Minnesota Christmas-tree growers say their crop offers numerous economic and environmental advantages over artificial trees.

There’s more to love about a real Christmas tree than the pretty ornaments.

Tree-growers in Minnesota cite a number of factors—both environmental and economic—that make their products preferable to their artificial competition.

“Bringing a real Christmas tree into the home is a tradition that goes back centuries. The tree's pleasant aroma gives an instant reminder that Christmas is in the air,” says the Rum River and Hampton Hills Tree Farms website at CutYourOwn.com.

Living trees, the site notes, are a renewable, recyclable resource: “Artificial trees, on the other hand, average a lifespan of only six years; then [they] are tossed in a landfill, where they lie in a composed state for centuries.”

Adds Krueger’s Christmas Trees of Lake Elmo: “Real trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen; the manufacturing of artificial trees releases volatile gasses and chemicals into the environment. Real trees provide habitat and protection for wildlife during their 10+ year lives.”

The sentiment is shared by Danny Seo, author of “Simply Green Giving,” in his Newsweek article “How to Have a Green Christmas.” 

"A fake tree is petroleum based. It's not biodegradable."

A live tree can be repurposed in many creative ways that an artificial tree can’t. The Minnesota Christmas Tree Association reports that of the approximately 33 million living Christmas trees are sold in North America annually, “about 93 percent … are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs.”

For example, according to the Rum River and Hampton Hills Tree Farms website, communities use the chippings for mulch, hiking trails, playground areas, animal stalls or landscaping: “Whatever the disposal method, real trees are 100 percent biodegradable, and all are ultimately recycled back into nature.”

And then there are the economics. Harvesting your own lush, sweet-smelling green tree not only helps you “go green.” It also generates some green—dollars, that is—for your community, reports the Minnesota Department of Agriculture: “Buying a locally grown Christmas tree benefits the local economy by keeping your dollars working at home in Minnesota.”

Every year, there are approximately 25-30 million living Christmas trees sold in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Of those, Minnesota Christmas tree farmers market approximately 500,000, reports the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Some 85 percent of fake trees in the United States are imported from China, according to the National Christmas Tree Association; nearly 10 million were sold worldwide in 2003.

“Unlike artificial trees, which are mostly manufactured overseas, U.S. Christmas tree farms provide jobs for over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry,” reports the Rum River and Hampton Hills Tree Farms.

Cut-Your-Own or Buy From a Lot?

You can choose and cut your own, or you can select one that is precut (also called pre-harvested or “fresh cut”), according to PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org.

Aside from the fun experience of making it a truly personal and memorable experience, you get to choose exactly what variety of tree, its size and appearance, from among hundreds or thousands of possibilities.

Many local pick-your-own Christmas Tree farms offer free refreshments—including must-have apple cider and hot chocolate—and additional fun activities, including wagon or hay rides, real reindeer and farm animals or petting zoos and gift shops.

“Each Minnesota Christmas tree farm has its own unique personality,” says the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website. “Some offer a quiet, peaceful setting, while others feature family activities, like visits with Santa and sleigh rides.”

The fragrant, fresh trees are often used for fundraising activities during the holidays, too. Some non-profit organizations sell live Christmas trees for charity at local business parking lots. This is an ideal option if you don’t feel like cutting your own but still yearn for that one-of-a-kind living tree to perfume your home with the familiar scent of the season.

It’s Coming On Christmas, They’re Cutting Down Trees

Be prepared before you grab your bow saw—PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org suggests a few practical tips for a great day at the tree farm:

  • Pack for a day trip, including snacks, hand towels or disposable wipes and plenty of liquids to drink.
  • Dress for comfort, and choose old clothes and hiking boots or old athletic shoes so you’re not worried about staining or tearing your clothes or ruining your shoes.
  • Bring heavy gloves to protect your hands and a jacket or other garment to protect your arms.
  • Dress for the weather and bring layered clothing, some extra socks and a blanket—especially if you have children.
  • Don't forget the camera!
Diane R Bangerter December 13, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Great article, sure will keep me getting fresh trees every year!
Mary Costello December 14, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Diane, we got the most perfect tree from Valley Presbyterian in Golden Valley... what's your favorite lot in the Hopkins area?
Kay Gordon December 14, 2011 at 02:51 PM
I'm happy to buy fresh every year, too! We used to get ours from Menards, but they're closed for renovations this year. So we used that lot up by Dairy Queen on Medicine Lake Road in Golden Valley. We found a great tree and a good price, I must say.
Terry Elliott December 18, 2011 at 01:23 AM
We have four artificial trees from China so far, one almost 30 years old. Love 'em. And in the spring, we celebrate by burning a tire in our front yard. Enough of the industry-written fluff.
Timothy Larsen December 18, 2011 at 07:08 AM
Real tree for us every year. We meet up with some friends at a local tree farm every year on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. We cut down our trees, then retreat to their house for food and games. It makes for a wonderful start to the Christmas season.

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