Monday, December 31, 2012

After the Storm

My Christmas was picturesque this year. We woke up and watched my 18 month old scoot down the stairs. His first exclamation was “wooooow!” The look on his face was priceless, and the kind of thing you will remember forever. This was really the first Christmas where he could open presents by himself and really notice that the living room was full of things for him.

Pretty soon, there was a sea of wrapping paper that resembled a very choppy ocean and if not for the movement I probably couldn’t tell where my son was. Amidst this I thought to myself, “I wonder how many trees it took to make this wrap?” Though we recycled everything (except the bows and ribbons of course) it still weighed on my mind.

Our recycle cart is overflowing and it gives me some comfort knowing that we at least are recycling. As I drive down the street on garbage day, I can see just how many people didn’t recycle their wrap, boxes, bags, packaging from their family meals, and all the rest of the “stuff” that goes along with the holiday.

What happened to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle? I try to live this but I must admit that I hadn’t thought about my holiday impact very much until now.  I think next year, Santa is going to put together all toys and have them sitting out without being wrapped.  After all, every Christmas movie I have seen shows Santa leaving toys under the tree without them being wrapped.

Anyone have any other tips or ideas on how to reduce the impact of the holiday season on the environment?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Christmas Tree

This past weekend, my husband and I packed up the baby and went to the tree nursery to pick out the perfect tree for our Victorian home. We walked in the semi-heated outdoor tent where we could get the Fraser Fir of our Christmas dreams. The fragrance kind of hits you in the face when you walk in those places don’t it? It certainly seemed to impress our 18 month old who proudly proclaimed “woooow” when he saw the trees.

We found our tree, paid for it, and went home to set it up. After about 10 minutes of our son being afraid to go near the tree, he then proceeded to bat at it with his plush baseball bat. Apparently it was not cool with him that the tree was set up in his toy area. After that fiasco was over we noticed another pungent smell that hits you in the face.

My husband turned to me and said, “Do you smell a skunk?” Yep, I did. Why? We tried figuring this out for several minutes and finally came to the conclusion that it was the tree. When growing in its tree farm, it had been sprayed. We were sure at this point there was no skunk in the tree. We checked. So, we waited it out and lit as many good smelling candles we could find to help us deal with it.

Why would anyone go through something like this to have a real tree as opposed to getting a fake one? Which one is more environmentally friendly? We are always talking about saving trees and recycling your paper so why cut down millions of Christmas trees for this strange tradition every year?

As it turns out, it is still more environmentally friendly to get a real tree than a fake one. This article on Earth 911 tells you all about the pros and cons. The main points are:

·         Artificial trees contain PVC, metals, and some older ones have lead.

·         They will sit in landfills for centuries without biodegrading. And, they are not recyclable.

·         More than 85% of the artificial trees sold in the USA come from China. (Do they celebrate Christmas?) So that is a long way to travel with a big environmental footprint.

·         “Approximately 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America each year, according to the U.S. EPA. Luckily, about 93 percent of those trees are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs.” These are the curbside collections mostly.

·         A single real tree absorbs more than a ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime before being cut. With 350 million trees growing for Christmas purposes that is a big carbon sink.

·         Did you know each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people?

So pungent odors aside, I think the real tree still wins my vote. In the meantime, I will be working on improving my tree picking skills ‘til next year’s tree is chosen.