I started a discussion on social media: how do you celebrate winter holidays and minimize your impact on the environment? The number-one tip I got was that artificial trees are better than cut trees. Well—maybe?
According to several conservation websites, cut Christmas trees win the day in most cases. One would have to keep an artificial tree for 10-20 years to overcome the negative effects of the plastic and chemicals. Christmas tree farms, on the other hand, provide habitats and the carbon-sucking value of a tree, at least until it meets its untimely end. On a side note, apparently, many parks allow folks to cut down a tree on public land, although some require a permit, so it's best to check before pulling out a saw.
One friend suggested that buying live trees and planting them after the holiday is the way to go, which makes perfect sense. But you'd need a fair amount of space to accomplish it year after year. I have saplings that come up in my front yard on a regular basis, and it kills me to pull them out, but our small yard is already heavily wooded. So, I dig them up, cart them down to our local floodplain, and plant them in any random open space. I'm not sure what my success rate has been because I lose track of them over time. If that seems out of line, you could always gift the tree to a friend or neighbor who has more space.
And of course, Christmas isn't the only winter holiday. No matter what the holiday, often travel, gifts, and food play a role. We have a lot of choice when making our celebratory decisions. I'm sure you already know what I'm going to say: consider trains or buses over planes and single-occupancy vehicles; purchase gifts that are locally produced and sustainable, or services; and finally, eat less meat. If you cannot imagine adopting a vegan diet, you can always start small. Serve more plant-based options and consider a few meatless meals on occasion. I've found that with a little practice, we become accustomed to these changes, and after a while, it's no big deal.
One more thing, consider getting creative with wrapping paper. I unwrap gifts carefully and save the paper. So if your gifts from me look a little on the wrinkly side next year, consider how many trees we're saving.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and stay safe! I'm isolating with Covid as I write this, so consider testing before the big get-together and masking in between—don't end up like me!