Thursday, December 23, 2010
Picture it: the 1970’s. We lived in Connecticut. My parents had a Yankee Barn custom built and the living room had a soaring ceiling – easily more than 20’. To a small kid twenty feet was as high as the sky itself. Our tradition was piling into the Volvo and going off to a Christmas tree farm. The three kids would race around and my father would size up various options. We’d bring our own rusty saw and take turns cutting it down. We weren’t alone. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation's 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.
This particular year Dad realized that it was very destructive to knock down a tree for a few weeks. It was getting expensive too. So why not spend a little more and get a living tree and use it year to year. Sure the first year it’d be a little smaller, but each year it’d grow bigger and bigger. Clearly going with a living tree was economically sound and it’d be fun to have it in the yard during the rest of the year. Christmas all year long!
Dad placed the 2 foot tree in the traditional spot. 18 feet or more of vast empty air above it. There were maybe a half-dozen branches. This would not do said my mother (on behalf of all of us). Not one to easily give up, Dad raced to the basement and brought up his red stool and placed the tree on top of it so the tree now reached 3 feet. Within hours a 16 footer replaced our little shrub and Christmas was saved. Not one to be defeated and looking to future years Dad went out and tried to dig a hole in the frozen ground. Hmmm…maybe Spring? I think the shrub was dead by Valentine’s Day.
More than 35 years have passed since our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree – but it’s one of those defining stories that live on with affection. Dad’s eyes twinkled every year when one of us would travel down memory lane.
It’s been years since I’ve decorated for Christmas – always traveling and the cost seemed to become prohibitive for the few days that I was able to enjoy the efforts. This year I’ve decked the halls, the walls and the living room. There sits a living Christmas tree.
The Living Christmas Tree company delivers a live potted tree and then picks it up. Families can adopt a tree and have it back year after year. The cost is a bit more than the corner tree lot but there’s no hassle of needles in the car, scratches on the roof, etc. It’s certainly a nod to Dad, but it’s also incredibly environmental.
Anyone who knows me wouldn’t describe me as an environmentalist. I’m not much for granola. Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” conveniently left out vast amounts of context not to mention contradictory scientific facts. I’m also not all that sure about the Global Warming phenomenon. The science isn’t settled, despite my progressive friends passions and wishes. Hundreds of Nobel Prize winning scientists have alternate points of view. I just don’t know. But not knowing doesn’t mean not caring and it doesn’t mean not doing anything.
Taking care of our planet makes sense – whether it’s to preserve resources or to slow global warming – it doesn’t actually much matter. I’m an early and ongoing supporter of Catalog Choice where you can eliminate unwanted mailings. There are more than a million people who have saved tons of paper and trees. I use cloth bags at the grocery – not because Los Angeles banned plastic bags (which it just did) – but because I get points from my grocer that turns into cash. I know that the plastic bag I used for 6 minutes to bring stuff into the house would live for generations and that just makes no sense whatsoever. I get nearly all my bills electronically and pay them the same way – using electricity but saving on paper and transportation through the mailing system. We can all do similar small things that make a difference without breaking much of a sweat.
There are things that I don’t do. I looked at getting a hybrid car and opted not to. There’s some cost savings in the gas which is great. But the carbon impact of a hybrid is actually more than a regular car with the two engines, batteries that decompose as slowly as plastic bags not to mention the carbon footprint of having to have the cars delivered from halfway around the world on ship. Yes, hybrid cards make some difference on some environmental points, but they have a negative impact in other ways. It’s just one example of where the ecological issues are not as simple as we would like them to be.
The simplest thing I have is my living Christmas Tree! I have not cut down and killed a tree in the celebrating of the Birth of Christ. Using cloth bags and limiting my mail pales in comparison. It’s not often that I get to be on the cutting edge of environmentalism. Dad: I know you’re smiling – turns out you were ahead of your time once again. Merry Christmas.