December 06, 2008

Green for the Holidays

I like to think of myself as pretty eco-conscious. I unplug my chargers. I obsessively turn off lights at home and in the office. In fact, I sit in the dark a lot. I use Seventh Generation paper towels and I don't take shopping bags from retailers unless I need them. I sort and recycle my glass, plastics, papers and cardboards. I rarely prefer a printout to a digital copy of a document.

I even researched the carbon impact of burial vs. cremation so I could decide how I wanted to spend eternity. (Answer: a biodegradable casket is better than having my ashes spread across the desert.)

But once a year, I do something that's questionable for the environment: I buy a real Christmas tree.

Of course, I know that deforestation is rampant. And God knows what tinsel does to the environment. But every year, no matter how much I consider not getting a tree, I end up buying one off the street somewhere in Murray Hill, and dragging it up my narrow staircase, leaving a trail of pine needles behind me and of oozy sap on my winter gloves. I just can't imagine that that's worse than the plastics used in artificial trees, not to mention their transport from China.

This year, I really considered skipping the real tree ritual, especially after I found a light-up ceramic tree like the one I grew up with from The Mud Pit at the Union Square holiday market. After years of refereeing fights between me and my sister over who would get the decoration, our father decided to keep it, and probably will til he dies. I got tired of waiting for it, and after seeing one in an antique store a couple years ago for over $100, I jumped at the chance to get this one for $45.

As I slept with the ceramic tree on every night for the last couple of weeks, my desire for a real pine tree hasn't been satiated, but rather ignited.

The ridiculous part is, I'm actually allergic to Christmas trees. I get itchy, stuffy, and if I touch my eyes with unwashed hands, they swell shut. But with some Claritin, a lot of hand-washing, and an open window to air out the fumes, I can manage.

This year I bought a Fraser fir from North Carolina from the guy across the street in front of the Duane Reade. It's probably the tallest tree I've managed in this studio apartment, and although I was looking for something skinny given my space limitations, it turned out to be pretty healthy once the branches warmed up and settled overnight.

I'm sure this one will dry out and become a horrible fire hazard after three weeks like they all do, but for now, it's fresh, moist, and pliable. It takes up most of my apartment but it's just me here anyway...At least now I've got something to keep me company.

I guess as my bulbs slowly blow out I should consider replacing my old strings of lights with more eco-friendly LED ones. Maybe next year....

Further reading:
Green Christmas - National Geographic
An Eco-Friendlier Christmas -
Your Top 20 Econundrums - Solved! - Mother Jones

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