If you or your family has used an artificial Christmas tree for environmental reasons, you’re running out of legs to stand on. While my parents’ motivations were more about laziness, I often took comfort in knowing that our less-cool fake tree was better for the environment, because it was reusable and didn’t involve killing a real live tree.
But there’s more to it than that, as this Slate article pretty well summarizes. In short, fake trees are produced overseas, are made from harmful plastic, and have to be shipped to the US. Real Christmas trees, on the other hand, are grown in your region, if not right in your town, on self-renewing Christmas tree farms. During the years between planting and cutting, those trees are still real live trees adding to the local ecosystem.
And now, thanks to this brilliant guy in Fremont, CA, Christmas tree recycling has just been taken the next level. Gone are the days when old trees are simply composted or brought to a mulch party. Now your tree, or the Charlie Brown tree that no one bought from the farm, can become a habitat for lake wildlife.
Pete Alexander, a Fisheries manager, realized his community had two problems that shared a solution. The local lakes were lacking in algae, insects and fish. Meanwhile, the average Christmas tree seller doesn’t move anywhere from five to 10 percent of their trees. Alexander’s answer was to collect the old Christmas trees and tie them to the bottom of a lake. (Why didn’t I think of that?) Other communities in the US are starting or continuing similar programs. According to the NYT article, old trees have also been used to help fill in the damaged New Orleans coastline, in addition to the usual mulching and wood chipping.
To anyone who cares about our environment, and gets fatigued by the constant bad news, pollution, and wastefulness of our society, stories like this are really a breath of fresh air. Hats off to Pete Alexander and his Christmas tree lakes.