The day after Christmas, on the eve of a winter storm, is as good a time as any to think about Christmas trees. The New York Times recently published an article comparing the environmental merits of artificial Christmas trees to the real deal. It seems like one of those things that if you were so inclined, you could overthink to the point of driving yourself crazy. The article concluded that though real trees may have a green edge over plastic ones, in the end, maybe the environmental benefits are insignificant compared to the things we do every day like driving a car.
But what about when you’re deciding to buy an existing house, or build a new one… on an old Christmas tree farm? Not too many years ago our little cul-de-sac was in fact a Christmas tree farm. The owner sold the land to our builder, Doug, who then had a sale to unload some trees. And then over the next five years he built a few houses on the land.
After I read that New York Times article I tried to find some data on why building six houses on a piece of land was better than an actual tree farm. But, tree farms really aren’t that bad. Yes there are some pesticides which may or may not get absorbed into the soil, but if that happens, the levels seem to be pretty inconsequential. Cutting down the trees and building houses is most certainly the environmental loser.
So, did I manage to burst my own green chemical-free, non-toxic bubble? We’re doing our best to minimize the environmental impact of the house, for sure; right now we’re in the process of choosing low-VOC paints and kitchen cabinets made without formaldehyde (yes, you would be surprised what sits alongside your cereal boxes and dinner plates). And we will be able to gaze upon the Christmas trees deliberately left on the perimeter of the land, each one now too big to serve its indoor holiday duties. Maybe every winter we’ll even string them with some lights- energy efficient, of course- and hang some ornaments in tribute to their original purpose.