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The True Beauty of Natural Christmas Trees

An Environmental Asset Before and After


Christmas tree crops typically grow for eight to ten years, providing environmental benefits during that time.

The Christmas tree: enchanting and charming and one of the most enduring symbols of the holidays in this country and others. If you take part in the tradition of setting up one (and decorating it although I guess there are really no rules about having to), do you prefer natural or artificial? As part of the green industry, one might be tempted to leave the real trees alone in the forests and choose a reusable department store version.

But as Stephanie AuWerter, the former editor of points out, Christmas tree crops, growing for eight to 10 years, are beneficial to the environment whereas the process that goes into producing a fake tree is not.

And once the holidays are over, real trees can continue to be useful in numerous ways. The National Christmas Tree Association urges everyone who opted for the natural route this year to resist the simple solution of throwing it away, and choose one of the many recycling options instead.

Growing in popularity are local waste management providers that offer curbside pickup during the first couple of weeks following Christmas. If you are not sure if yours does, a visit to their website should let you know.

The NCTA says that many recycling centers take trees and there are also recycling and mulching programs run by local departments of public works, which then make the mulch available for use by individuals or by their own outdoor management departments. And of course, one can always do the chipping and shredding on their own for their gardens' benefit.

One option that you might not be aware of is that zoos and animal sanctuaries often take the trees for the enrichment of their residents. The donations are set out among the animals that use them for exploration, play, even nourishment. An example of this is Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. There the care specialists and trainers relay stories of sloths, lemurs, and birds being lured by the smells and textures of the trees, wolves "claiming them" as their own, foxes bouncing in their branches, sheep and goats pushing trees around, and rams using them as scratching posts. The humans even hide food in the trees, which encourages natural foraging behavior.

Of course there are sound reasons for choosing artificial trees but if your heart is really set on a natural one next year, your head can reassure your heart that there can be good that will come from it.

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November 22, 2019, 1:29 pm PDT

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