I love the winter holidays, which is strange because I am 100% a heat-loving summer baby. But the cheer and good will in the air, the sparkly decorations, and the excuse to drape absolutely everything in my home with greenery makes me very, very happy. You all know that I try to live as sustainably as possible, so I do often get the question during the winter months why I choose to use so much live greenery in my home and decorations when I could purchase ‘reusable’ decorations to use year after year. So let’s dive into that!
First and foremost, when you’re shopping for holiday items (or just items in general!) shop local! For this season’s decorations I’ve teamed up with O’Tooles Garden Center, a local favorite here in Colorado that has been around and family owned for over 35 years! I love being able to support actual humans rather than huge corporations, but the benefits don’t stop there, when you shop local you get local. That means the items you’re purchasing have less of a carbon footprint because they didn’t have to travel as far- that’s fewer emissions and other transportation-based pollutants! And because they are so local they’re going to be fresher! When I brought my Christmas tree home from O’Toole’s this year I actually ended up texting my dear friend and photographer, Becky, who was there when I picked it out, slightly concerned. I wanted to make sure that the tree had gotten a fresh cut because it wasn’t drinking nearly as much water as I had expected it to. I wanted to keep it as fresh as possible and if it wasn’t taking in water, that wasn’t going to happen. It turns out that the reason it wasn’t soaking up water was because it had only been cut two days before- it was so fresh that it didn’t have time to dry out. Now that is a win!
So Why Live Greenery?
When walking through a garden center like O’Toole’s it is glaringly obvious that live holiday decorations are incredibly beautiful. There are rows upon rows of trees, wreaths, and poinsettias, as well as whole tables of live garland you can cut to size, Christmas cacti, and fresh greenery like holly and evergreen boughs to decorate your home. So why the hesitation? The most common concern I hear is, ‘but you had to cut down something alive!’
Before I get why cutting down live plants is actually a good thing in this instance, let’s chat why their fake equivalents are actually horrible for the environment. Most of the the fake trees, plants, and garland you see are actually made overseas (meaning their transportation carbon footprint is large already!) from petroleum based, PVC plastics. That means as they break down, lose needles, shed, and the like from wear and tear they actually create micro-plastics which pollute our environment and especially our waterways. When your tree, wreath, or garland serves its purpose, either because it starts to fall apart or your taste changes they end up in landfills forever because they are nearly impossible to recycle. Not so great.
Instead, let’s take a peek at the life cycle of a live Christmas tree, holly bush, evergreen, or poinsettia (less so on the flowers because you can keep those as houseplants!) In order to sell these during the holidays farmers actually have to grow them! Sounds simple, but it makes such a big impact. The centerpiece of any holiday display is usually the tree, and if you are anything like I am you’re going to find the biggest tree that you can fit into your space! Now because of how big that tree is it is going to have taken years (an average of seven according to my research!) to grow to that height. That is seven years of your tree producing oxygen, seven years of your tree cleaning the air by absorbing CO2, and seven years of its roots sequestering carbon- all of these things are great for a single tree, but multiply that to acres and acres of trees on a tree farm and you have an environmental powerhouse!
One of the other great things about growing pine trees and evergreens is that normally they grow in places where crops don’t- think of how fun it is to see that last pine tree poking its needles at the edge of the tree line on the top of a mountain. Those trees are hardy, and because of this the farmers have the ability to use more of their land that wouldn’t typically be fertile for producing food. Plus, many of those same farmers, along with cities, and personal gardeners use these trees after the holiday season is over and turn them into biodegradable matter for compost bins or mulch from utilizing your local recycling program! No landfill for these beauties!
Some Quick Tips
- If you already have a fake tree, use it for as long as possible! Creating waste for sustainability’s sake seems a bit silly! So use what you have and as you need to replace items replace them with fresh new living decor!
- Find a Christmas Tree recycling program near you! The easiest way to do this is to contact either your town hall or your waste management facility. Many cities now even make it easy and have a designated day that they will come pick up your used trees to make into mulch to beautify local parks!
- If you are wanting to do the fun photo-op and adventure that is cutting down your own Christmas tree make sure to do it correctly and check the USDA Forest Service website to obtain local permits, and then make sure to head to your local garden center ::cough O’Toole’s:: to grab garland, wreaths, and more plants. These permits make sure that you are cutting trees that are good for growth in overpopulated or fire-prone areas and not trees that are part of reforestation projects.
Worries about the Pandemic? Shop online! O’Toole’s Garden Centers actually has a wonderful online marketplace where you can shop for all of your holiday decor from centerpieces and mini trees to Christmas trees and garlands and then pick up curbside!
I’d love to know what your favorite way to decorate for the holidays is! Be sure to pop over to Instagram to let me know!
Product was gifted to facilitate this blog post. All opinions are my own.