Tag Archives: christmas tree

The different species of Christmas tree – and how to pick the best one

Confession: when I was younger I thought that all Christmas trees are the same species. There are actually many different species and they all have different traits. By learning about the traits of each you can choose the most perfect tree for you!

Here is a run-down on some of the most popular and available types:

Europe

Nordmann Fir

Latin name: Abies nordmanniana

Native to: the Caucasus Mountains south and east to the Black Sea

Pros: it has a nice conical shape, the needles stay on the tree for a long time, the needles are a nice color and not sharp.

Cons: on the more expensive side.

Fun fact: its soft white wood is often used for paper production.

Norway Spruce

Latin name: Picea abies

Native to: central, northern, and eastern Europe

Pros: structured pyramid shape, nice smell, easy on the wallet, soft needles

Cons: needles are a bit sharp and can fall off, sticky sap on trunk

Fun fact: the oldest tree in the world, nicknamed Old Tjikko, is a Norway spruce and is about 9,550 year old!

A Norway spruce in the wild. Image credits: Ivar Leidus

A Norway spruce in the wild. Image credits: Ivar Leidus

Silver Fir

Latin name: Abies alba

Native to: central and southern Europe

Pros: nice conical shape, good needle retention

Cons: may not be available at all tree markets, sparse foliage

Fun fact: was the first species used as a Christmas tree.

Silver firs have a striking needle color. Image credits: Hans

The Blue Spruce

Latin name: Picea pungens

Native to: Rocky Mountains in USA

Pros: blue-green color, nice conical shape, very symmetrical, holds needles

Cons: sharper needles

Fun fact: the latin word “pungens” means sharply pointed and refers to the needles.

The blue spruce has a nice natural conical shape. Image credits: USDA-NRCS PLANTS

The Scots Pine

Latin name: Pinus sylvestris

Native to: all across Eurasia

Pros: nice conical shape when young, long-lasting aroma, good needle retention

Cons: flexible branches aren’t good for heavy ornaments

Fun fact: One of the few used as Christmas tree and both Europe and North America.

Others: Noble fir (Abies procera), Serbian spruce (Picea omorika), Stone pine (Pinus pinea), Swiss pine (Pinus cembra)

It’s definitely not just found in Scotland. Image credits: Nova

North America

Fraser fir

Latin name: Abies fraseri

Native to: small area at higher altitudes in southern Appalachians

Pros: dark green soft needles, ships well, excellent needle retention, nice scent, strong branches, compact (good for limited spaces)

Cons: dense foliage not ideal for hanging many ornaments

Fun fact: named after the Scottish botanist who explored the Appalachians in late 18th century.

Christmas trees (including Fraser firs) are usually grown in plantations. Image credits: Soil-Science.info

Douglas fir

Latin name: Pseudotsuga menziesii

Native to: Western North America

Pros: nice dark green, blue-green color, soft needles, full looking, sweet smell

Cons: weak branches

Fun fact: This tree species is not a true fir and has its own unique species classification.

You probably won’t have a 9-foot-diameter Douglas fir in your living room. Image credits: Anders B. Wilse

Balsam fir

Latin name: Abies balsamea

Native to: across Canada and eastern USA

Pros: soft needles, retains needles well, fragrant, durable

Cons: more expensive

Fun fact: named for the balsam (resin) found in the bark, which was used to treat wounds in the Civil War.

Oh Balsam fir, oh Balsam fir, how soft are your needles. Image credits: Famartin

Eastern White Pine

Latin name: Pinus strobus

Native to: eastern North America

Pros: little fragrance (good for people who suffer from allergic reactions), retains needles

Cons: weak branches, little fragrance

Fun fact: largest pine tree in the USA.

Virginia Pine

Latin name: Pinus virginiana

Native to: Eastern USA

Pros: strong braches, cheap, nice scent

Cons: sharp needles

Fun fact: it has only started being used as a Christmas tree recently.

This pine needs to be mechanical sheared into the cone shape attractive for Christmas tree. Image credits: Famartin

Others: Blue spruce (Picea pungens)- see Europe, Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)- see Europe, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), White Spruce (Picea glauca), Grand fir (Abies grandis), Noble fir (Abies procera), Red fir (Abies magnifica), White fir (Abies concolor), Pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi)

When you buy a Christmas tree this holiday season, be an informed shopper and choose the one that matches your needs the most.

Real Vs Artificial Christmas Tree: What the science says

The debate over Christmas trees takes place year after year. We really shouldn’t use real trees and I’m glad that more and more people have stopped using natural trees for Christmas, but are artificial alternatives really better? Here, we’ll be discussing the pros and cons of using artificial trees versus real trees so that you can make the best decision based on scientific facts.

Artificial Christmas Trees

Artificial Christmas trees have come a long way… sometimes you can’t even tell the difference without a closer look. Image via Christmas Wallpapers.

Artificial Christmas Trees are artificial trees manufactured specifically for the purpose of being used as a Christmas tree. Here, I’ll be focusing only on the most common ones (the ones made from PVC), but you should know that there are also other, more creative alternatives. Most people would be surprised to find out that in many ways, artificial trees actually do more harm to the environment than cutting natural trees; in other words, the idea of artificial trees being eco-friendly is, as a researcher at Kansas State University put it – “an urban myth”.

A peer-reviewed study released in 2011 found that the impacts of natural and artificial trees are almost the same, with the artificial ones being slightly worse. The key here is PVC. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a petroleum-derived plastic. The main raw material for fake Christmas trees is both non-renewable and polluting, and you can’t recycle it. Furthermore, PVC production results in the unhealthy emission of a number of carcinogens, such as dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride. Also, lead is frequently used to create the actual needles, and as we all know, lead has a number of significant negative health effects, including kidney, neurological, and reproductive system damage. Therefore, touching the tree, especially with your face, can be quite hazardous. Also, vacuuming around the tree can spread tiny lead particles in the air, which creates an inhalation danger.

It also requires a lot of energy to create and transport the fake trees. You need to reuse the tree for 20 years before the total energy used for the artificial tree is less than the energy cost of using a new, live tree each year. There is also the question of transportation, though recent studies have shown that that’s not that much of a problem.

“The reality is that the long distance transport from China is pretty efficient,” says Laura Morrison, a Senior Consultant at PE International.

Christmas Trees

Image via Christmas Wallpapers.

“Real” Christmas Trees are almost always evergreen conifers, such as spruce, pine, or fir. The custom of the Christmas trees developed in early modern Germany with predecessors that can be traced to the 16th and possibly even the 15th century. The history of this tradition has actually nothing to do with Christianity — Vikings and other northern populations would deocrate their windows and homes with evergreens to keep witches and other spirits away. However, many Christians embraced it. Each year, 33 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced in America, and 50 to 60 million are produced in Europe. Naturally, cutting down this many trees is a big problem, both ethically and environmentally — but is it worse than polluting?

Natural tree growers contend that artificial trees are more environmentally harmful than their natural counterparts, but trade groups such as the American Christmas Tree Association claim the exact opposite — so you can’t really rely on either of their claims considering their obvious bias. So what does the science say?

Live trees are typically grown as a crop and replanted in rotation after cutting, often providing suitable habitats for wildlife. While poor management can lead to poor habitat and soil degradation, Christmas tree plantations are generally decent habitats. Another drawback to live trees is that you only use them for a short while before throwing them away. Sadly, even though they are biodegradable and highly recyclable, Christmas trees are sometimes simply thrown away. However, more and more are being recycled to be used as mulch or to prevent erosion. Real trees are also carbon-neutral, though emissions can occur from farming activities and transportation. They are also more expensive than artificial trees since you need to purchase a new one every year.

The Conclusion

Both natural and artificial Christmas trees have a negative environmental impact. If you truly want a green Christmas, don’t get a tree at all! But if you really want one, read the conclusion below. Image via PetMD.

It’s not possible to say that real or artificial Christmas trees are better. If you really want to have a green Christmas and lower your negative environmental impact, don’t buy any tree. Decorate your house, maybe get some fallen branches, whatever… just don’t get a tree. If you do want to keep the tradition and get a tree, then this is the main takeaway:

Both natural and fake trees have an environmental impact. Most people don’t know, but artificial trees have a slightly larger negative impact, requiring more energy to produce, lead to pollution, and pose potential health hazards. Cutting down natural trees, even if they are recycled afterward and have a smaller carbon footprint, is unethical, and you would have a much larger environmental bonus if you simply let them grow. You would get a better habitat, more carbon sequestration, better landscapes and so on. This is what science says… the decision is yours. Choose responsibly!

HOW TO: Green Your Christmas Tree

Christmas is just around the corner, and the good old Christmas tree is one of the most enjoyable traditions of the holiday season. Thankfully, more and more people are starting to realize that cutting a tree and ultimately throwing it in the street or in the dump is not the way to go! But that doesn’t mean you can’t have an awesome holiday – here are the some of the best eco-friendly tips to have the greenest and most awesome Christmas tree ever!

 

Go for a living tree!

Image Source: Design Mom.

Living trees produce oxygen, suck up carbon dioxide, and are a pleasant sight all year round, even without the Christmas decorations. You don’t have to kill a tree, and you get to keep that natural tree look and smell year after year. These living Christmas trees are usually pretty small, but you can use that to your advantage: you don’t need so many decorations, and you can put one (or why not, 2 or 3) in each room.

There is one thing you have to be careful about though – they don’t really thrive indoors. Most varieties don’t survive more than two weeks indoors, so you have to either:

– plant then in a garden or on your lawn
– store them outside on your porch/balcony.

They can deal with the cold temperatures and snow – no problem; they also do well in almost any soil, so you shouldn’t worry about that – just be sure that you get them outside after 7-14 days. This is probably the best option for a truly green Christmas tree – not only are you not doing any damage to the environment, but you’re also helping, and you get to enjoy the real deal.

 

Try a rosemary tree!

Image Credits: Flower fast.

Who says it has to be a pine or a fir? If you just want a small Christmas Tree, rosemary is just perfect ! You can find these cute little trees pretty much everywhere, even online like on Amazon. They look Christmasy, they smell great, they thrive indoors, and they provide healthy, tasty herbs throughout the entire year! What more can you want?

 

Rent a (potted) Tree

Again, living trees emit oxygen, and they improve the air quality, making us feel better. This also ensures that the trees aren’t killed just so that we can enjoy them for a meager period. These trees are typically planted somewhere, cared for all year round by the company, and just placed in special pots when they are delivered. You also don’t need to do anything, avoiding the rush and crowd that always seems to accompany Christmas tree shopping – the trees are delivered to your doorstep.

This may or may not be an option – depending on where you live, but Google’s your friend here! Virtually all major American cities have this service available, and the trend is also rising in Western Europe. Just type ‘Rent Christmas tree [city where you live]’, and you should be good to go.

 

If you buy a cut tree, at least recycle it!

There’s nothing sadder than putting a Christmas tree to waste after the winter holidays are over! So if you really want to buy a cut tree, there are still somethings you can do to recycle it.

The best thing would be to plant it. If you have a garden or a backyard, it’s perfect! If you’ve got the space for it, getting a tree with roots and replanting it is obviously the most eco-friendly solution. If that is not an option, then there are some things you can do, like recycling it into compost. Most cities offer this options (or host companies which do this for you); the tree is still killed, but at least the timber won’t go to waste. In isolated cases, you can also stuff it in a private pond – it offers refuge to fish and provides a nice addition to their ecosystem. Just be sure that it hasn’t been sprayed with damaging chemicals.

If you’re stuck with no backyard, no pond, and no compost recycling, you really shouldn’t buy a cut tree in the first place.

 

Decorate an outside tree!

Image Credits.

Sure, it may not be traditional and you won’t get the Christmas tree smell in your living room, but the cheapest option is to simply decorate an outdoor tree for Christmas. You’ll have more money for decorations, and it will make for a pleasant sight for all the people passing by – truly a great way of sharing the Christmas spirit. If you decorate a tree that you can actually see from your window, you’ll feel like it’s actually inside your home!

Tip: be extra careful if you’re doing this in a stormy area, the decorations might fly or fall over.

 

If you’re thinking about a fake tree… think again!

An artificial Christmas tree might seem like the greener option, but that’s rarely the case. They’re typically made from PVC, which is hard to recycle; as Grist puts it: “No vinyl, ever! We are boycotting vinyl to the greatest extent possible”. Furthermore, most of them also contain lead, which is commonly used to stabilize PVC products. But that doesn’t mean we should take faux trees out of the question, just that we have to be a touch more creative.

Try cardboard! Skip the cheap, impersonal made in China or Taiwan PVC lead Christmas trees and go for a more pleasant and interesting cardboard tree, or a plywood tree, or just let your imagination fly! I’ll have another article ready soon discussing other creative options.

 

Make your own tree from branches and cones!

Image Credits.

This is another ultra-cheap, green way to have a nice, eco friendly Christmas. You can use a couple of small branches, cones driftwood – just get creative. This is a great idea to try with your children – just let your imagination fly while having quality time with your little ones and teaching them healthy environmental values at the same time!

BONUS: use LED lights

No Christmas celebration is complete without multi colored lights. LED Christmas lights consume 90% less energy than incandescent lights, they’re made with less polluting substances and the LEDs never get broken (unless you smash them or something) – so there’s no reason not to use them instead of the traditional lights.

Image Credits.

Here’s to a Green Christmas!

Tips to Stay Eco-Friendly and Chic for Christmas

Via Metro

Sadly, in recent years, Christmas has shifted away from its (already controversial roots) into a consumerism centered holiday. So what can you do, if you want to have a green, eco-friendly celebration, but still cherish the warm Christmas spirit? Here’s what you should do:

Find the right tree

The Christmas tree is at the heart of any celebration, so it’s understandable that many people don’t want to skip it. But with over 1.000.000 trees being cut (and not planted afterwards), is a living tree really a green option? No, not really. I’ve already discussed how you can green your Christmas tree or how to get other, creative alternatives, here’s the gist of it:

Via Design Mom.

Real trees: most of them come from tree farms, not virgin forests, so cutting them down is not really as bad as it seems at a first sight, but I wouldn’t really consider them a renewable, sustainable resource. Furthermore, fossil fuels are used to harvest and transport them. The best thing to do would be to replant the tree, or at the very least recycle it for compost or even wood.

Fake trees: not really as green of an alternative as you think. They use petroleum and PVC in their fabrication process and contain small quantities of lead. However, if you buy one and use it for years and years, you use less and less resources. If you go for a fake tree – stick to it !

Potted Trees: Quite possibly the perfect idea, keep in mind that most potted trees can survive for only approximately 14 days indoors, and they need an outdoor environment, so you have to either plant them outside, or at lease place them on your balcony after your Celebrations are over.

Use LED Christmas lights

Energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) can be anywhere from 20% to 90% more efficient than traditional lights, and they also last longer and are more sturdy. Also, when the lights are on and you don’t really need the light, turn it off! It will add a nice groove to the room and also save a lot of energy.

Eco-upgrade your gifts!

Several million postcards are sent each year for Christmas – amounting at about 300.000 trees cut solely for this purpose. Why not craft your own, more personal and creative cards, from recycled paper or fresh cardboard? Not only will you help the environment, but you will also be sending out much more personal and warm thoughts.

Also, when shopping, be sure to use a more eco-friendly bag, like canvas, or something reusable, instead of plastic. This goes for the entire year, but even more for the Christmas period. You can also wrap your presents in recycled paper – which looks and feels just the same.

When purchasing gifts, check how eco-friendly they are – what they are made from, whether they have an extended life, etc. Also…

Buy local!

It takes much more resources to buy things from far away. Patronizing local products not only reduces carbon emissions, but it also supports your local economy.

Soy or Beeswax candles only!

The ultra cheap candles are petroleum based, and they constantly pollute the environment (i.e. your house) when they are lit. Go for more natural alternatives – beeswax or soy candles are fairly cheap, and they’re much healthier and eco-friendly.

Buy organic, healthy, and only what you can finish!

I know, Christmas is the time when you just forget about the diets and go crazy with food. But every year, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted on Christmas ! That’s an incredible 1.300.000.000.000 kilograms! Each and every one of us can contribute, and only buy what you know you can finish; also, there’s nothing wrong with eating yesterday’s leftovers – especially when they’re delicious.

Have a merry green Christmas, and an eco-friendly New Year!