Christmas Tree Guilt

Posted Dec 14th, 2009

Christmas Tree Guilt

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I am a tree killer.

I bought my first real Christmas tree this year. It seems amazing that I've lived 32 years and never had one.

Back home in London, my parents always put up a green pipe-cleaner-style fake tree.

For years, trimming the tree meant pulling out the "traditional" cardboard box stuffed with limbs, and sticking in the artificial branches one by one. How romantic.

This year, my husband and I decided enough with the plastic and in with a sweet pine-smelling real tree.

From the start, I had reservations about the "cruelty" of cutting down a tree. Yes, Christmas trees are grown as a crop and are renewable, but is chopping one down the best thing for the environment?

If I use my crappy fake tree for a few years more, am I a better environmental steward?

Likely not, given most artificial trees contain polyvinyl chloride (or PVC, otherwise known as vinyl), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic.

A few of our friends suggested foregoing the shopping mall tree lot and heading out into the woods to cut down our own blue spruce, a practice our pal, Matt, calls "tree hunting."

Luckily, Niagara has a few tree farms. We opted for Smiths' Trees, one of the region's oldest growers that has been growing them since 1962.

Armed with a hand saw, my husband Tim and I, and our friends searched Smith's wooded lot, looking for the perfect tree. The landscape became a blur of branches, green needles and wooden trunks, oh my!
Fat ones, tall ones, limps ones, sparse ones. Then we saw it: A full blue spruce with a comely shape.

Tim went to work, sticking the teeth of the saw into the flesh of the tree. I winced as the tree collapsed onto the ground, revealing a tiny birds nest with crushed eggs beneath. Instant tree guilt.

It didn't take long for the spiky, porcupine-like creature to fight back. Its needles dug into our skin as we crammed it into the backseat of our car and hauled it into the house.

Wearing work gloves and resolve, we struggled to fit it into the tree stand, and give the creature its first living-giving glug of water.

With apprehension, we began putting on white lights and gold decorations — with each one our hand recoiling in case the tree decided to strike.

Then it was over. We sat on the couch nursing our needle wounds and eggnog — dreaming of artificial trees.

Then, I looked up at Mr. Tree, sprinkled with lights. It was beautiful. It was worth it.

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