How 'green' is your Christmas tree?

Last Updated: 
December 9, 2010

Doug Fir branch by Lynn Ketchum

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Bring home a Christmas tree that is both green and "green," and you'll enjoy its fragrance while knowing that it is 100 percent recyclable.

When people ask what kind of Christmas tree is the least destructive to the environment, Mike Bondi explains that trees grown in Oregon specifically as Christmas trees are the best. Bondi works with Christmas tree growers and is based with the Oregon State University Extension Service in Clackamas County.

About 7 million Oregon trees are purchased every year to celebrate the holidays, more than from any other state. More than 17 million are cut nationwide. About 90 percent of trees purchased in California come from Oregon or Washington. Oregon trees are also shipped throughout the nation and to other countries.

"Jobs in the Christmas tree industry have a huge impact on local economies," Bondi said. "We produce the trees here in the local community; no factories or overseas imports. The industry employs hundreds of seasonal workers and full-time employees."

"Real" Christmas trees, like all trees, absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. They also keep the soil from eroding, provide shelter for wildlife and because they are grown as a crop, do not threaten natural forests.

"Christmas trees are tended as any farm crop, just like lettuce or strawberries," Bondi said, with care given to sustain a healthy environment. Trees sold to the public are about 7 to 8 years old and are harvested every 5 to 10 years.

"Noble firs are popular because they have open, firm branches, that are easy for hanging ornaments," Bondi said. "Douglas firs, which have a denser shape, also are popular."

When the holidays are over, exhausted trees picked up at the curb can be ground into a rich mulch and put back into the soil or around shrubs. They are completely biodegradable.

Over the last few years, Bondi has been giving television, radio and print interviews in California and the Southwest, sponsored by OSU Extension and the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, about the positive impact of Oregon's "green" trees.

"We alert consumers who are concerned about ecology that their Christmas tree purchase can be part of the solution," Bondi said.

As the center of attention during the holidays, decorated trees can last for several weeks with proper care. Bondi offers this advice to prolong their appeal:

  • Choose a tree that's fresh. Pinch a needle; it should have a rich fragrance. Take a needle off the tree and bend it. If it snaps like a carrot, that's a fresh tree.

  • Cut an inch or so off of the tree's trunk and place the tree in a stand that holds at least a gallon of water. This is important because a cut tree will take up three to four quarts a day.
  • Water every day. Keep the stand full of water. This is the key to keeping a tree fresh.
  • Author: Judy Scott
    Source: Mike Bondi, Chal Landgren