Having a Greener Christmas: Recycle your tree

 Every year I find myself googling the same information - how do I make sure that my Christmas tree ends up being made into mulch and not heaped in the landfill. In fact, I usually start the season by googling around trying to decide how guilty I should feel about having a Christmas tree at all and is there some other alternative that would be cool, environmental and not make my children feel like I'd killed Santa Claus. I am happy to announce that after years of debating this whole issue I have finally come to a concrete conclusion. So here is my Definitive Guide to a Greener Christmas Tree Experience from the question of getting the tree to the question of getting rid of it:

Artificial or Real Christmas Tree?
There's a lot of confusion over the issue of whether an artificial tree is more green than a natural, cut tree. At first I thought perhaps an artificial tree was the way to go, but on further research I feel convinced that a cut tree is the greener option. As discussed on Treehugger, an artificial tree is made of PVC, which is not recyclable and made of petroleum. Also, artificial trees don't last forever. They start to look bad after a couple of years, so, in fact, artificial trees can end up being much more wasteful in the end.

On the other hand, natural trees are farmed, just like any other agricultural product and are good for the environment as they are growing. Treehugger gives tips for how to make having Christmas tree as environmental as possible. Of course it's not exactly that simple and having a Christmas tree does have environmental impact, but I don't feel as bad about it as I did before. I've become convinced by the arguement that a Christmas tree is basically just a very large bouquet of flowers.

Are There Other Cool Christmas Tree Alternatives?
A year or two ago I got it in my head to make a cool Christmas tree out of recycled objects. This solves two problems. It reuses garbage, it saves the tree and it's a fun project. It also seems like possibly the only way to avoid the tree without getting too much grief from the kids, if you can create a really cool tree. At the time I couldn't find any cool looking tree designs to create, but this year there are many really cool craft and gizmo trees floating around the web.

How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree in NYC?
The Department of Sanitation has a decent site about reducing waste through the holiday season overall. On it you will find info about recycling your tree. It's important to make sure your tree gets recycled rather than picked up as trash. The Parks Department also sponsors an annual MulchFest and will mulch all the trees and use them in the city parks, which really makes the environmental impact of having a Christmas tree much less.

The City will pick up your tree curbside. What could be easier? All you have to do is make sure to remove any foreign elements (lights, tinsel, ornaments, etc.) If there is anything on the tree, it will be picked up as garbage.

You can also take your tree to mulching location. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that, but people do so there must be a reason. If you do go to a MulchFest location you can cart home as much mulch as you can carry for use in your own garden, which is great.

For holiday gift ideas check out our Holiday Gift Guide, and for holiday fun see our Holiday Guide.

This post originally published in December, 2008.

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