November 29, 2010

Making the Cut: Christmas Trees -- Keeping it Sustainable, Green and Local

First, I'd like to say that however you choose to make merry this season, I wish you joy and pass no judgement on how you do it. There is no place for critics when it comes to celebrations of peace and happiness. I offer up this post about the tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree to share one of my family's favorite holiday traditions, and for those on the fence about what type of tree to have this year, to offer my perspective and encourage you to embrace a new adventure and find your inner lumberjack!

Since I was very little, the experience of walking in the crisp mountain air, the crackle and snap of small twigs underfoot, and the heady smell of pine has had a special magic and place in my heart. To me, this annual trip to the mountains to select the perfect tree officially heralded the start of the holiday season. My parents would bundle us up in our down parkas and mittens (just about the only time we would wear them, since it rarely dropped below 40 where we lived on the coast), and we'd head out for a day of adventure, getting thwacked in the head with pine boughs, and, "If you kids don't cut it out I'll turn this car around right now".  

Now that I have children of my own, I'm happy to be able to share the tradition with them (and we've never had to turn the car around). Every year we pack up the old picnic basket, a thermos of hot cocoa, and head out to a wonderful Christmas Tree farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We're greeted warmly by the family that owns and works the farm, and enjoy a steaming cup of their delicious cider as we wander through the acres of beautiful trees.

It's a nice little tradition, right?  But what are some of the other points in favor of cutting a live tree?

GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY:  It supports small & local business.  I dig that!

GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT:  "Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soils that could not support other crops."*

GOOD FOR THE AIR:  "A benefit to the atmosphere, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen. This helps prevent the earth-warming "greenhouse effect". One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people."*

RECYCLABLE:  "Real Christmas trees are an all-American, recyclable resource. Artificial trees, most of which are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong, consist of plastics and metals that aren't biodegradable. Real trees are usually disposed of not in landfills but by being chipped up for landscaping or put into lakes and ponds for smaller fish to survive."*

BUDGET FRIENDLY -- Cutting a live tree is usually less expensive than purchasing a plastic one (Ours was $55).  Plus, you get the bonus of experiences a day of fresh air in the country, rather than a stressful shopping experience at a stuffy store.

To be fair, there are some downsides too.  Along with the fresh pine smell comes those ever-dropping pine needles.  The tree needs to be properly balanced in a stand (which can sometimes be tricky) and it must be watered regularly.  Most seriously, any type of tree can be a fire hazard.  But for my family, we've decided that the pros far outweigh the cons.  We look forward to carrying on this tradition for years to come and were so happy to share it with some dear friends this past weekend.


*These statements were taken directly from the Christmas Tree Farm Network website.  They summed it up a lot better than I felt I could do on my own.  If you're looking for a Christmas Tree farm in your area, you can visit their map HERE.


  1. We, too, went to the Santa Cruz mountains over the holiday and cut down our tree - our craggy, BLUE tree that Riley picked! It's a great tradition...

  2. it sounds like a lovely tradition...we went "fake" a few years ago and it is kinda a pain in the neck :) your day out looks like it was bunches of fun and i love how happy everyone is. if we had little ones around the house, this would definitely be a yearly tradition! thanks for sharing

  3. I remember doing this in the middle of the big city and when we decide to go this route for the first time with our kids this year, we were happy to share the experience with you and the rest of the rook's. Other than Brett walking down the hill to find the tree and dragging it back up, I think he even liked it! I keep thinking I am going fake (it is so LA ya know) but there is something about a real tree that is priceless.

  4. Choosing and cutting down our Christmas tree is my favorite tradition, hands down. We go to the same farm every year and have a great time.

    Our biggest problem is always deciding how big of a tree to get. Funny how they look so much bigger in your house than they do at the farm!

  5. yep... we love the tree farm! we have a couple to choose from... one with horses, a shop and a choir.... one with a little petting area and Christmas shop... they cost more... but on a dry day they are worth it! ;)

  6. LOVE cutting down a fresh tree every year. Last year was the first year I haven't done it (we were traveling) and that will not happen again. My favorite part of the tradition is cutting off the bottom of the tree so it is a fresh cut to go in the stand. Then whoever got to pick out the tree that year puts their name and the year on the little piece of the trunk that was cut off. Now my siblings and I have great memories to share as we begin to have our own families


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