Christmas trees are a booming business in the United States. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that 33 million real Christmas trees are sold annually. However, a major downside of the Christmas tree business is that fewer than 1% of all Christmas trees come from certified organic farms. Beyond Pesticides points out how detrimental conventional Christmas tree farming is for people and the environment, noting, “The pesticides that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers for use on conventionally grown Christmas trees are linked to numerous adverse health effects, including cancer, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, organ damage, reproductive/birth defects, asthma, and more.” Still, pesticide laden Christmas trees are still arguably healthier for people and the planet than artificial Christmas trees. Most artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, lead and other plastics, plus, unlike real trees, artificial trees won’t ever biodegrade. As an eco-minded family, you do have some options. You can ditch the Christmas tree this year and go with a more eco-friendly Christmas tree alternative or you can hunt down a certified organic Christmas tree. Learn how after the jump.

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The best, most eco-friendly real Christmas tree choice is an organic, living tree and secondly an organic cut Christmas tree. Unfortunately, these kinds of holiday trees are hard to come by. If you can’t find an organic Christmas tree, your next best choice is to go local. Find a smaller Christmas tree farm nearby using Local Harvest or Pick Your Own Christmas Tree and support them instead of buying a tree off a lot. Christmas trees bought from a lot have sometimes traveled long distances to get to you, which is not great for your carbon footprint. Below are some more tips.

  • Green Promise has a fairly large list of organic Christmas tree farms including low-spray and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Christmas trees.
  • Get a living Christmas tree from a local nursery (many nurseries carry living trees for the holidays). After Christmas plant it in your yard or in the community. Learn more about potted Christmas trees.
  • If you live in San Diego, LA County, or Marin County you can rent a living tree from the Living Christmas Co. Keep your eyes peeled because this company hopes to go national soon!
  • If you’re interested in a wild Christmas tree, you should know that you can’t just go cut down a tree. Most national forests allow folks to harvest trees for Christmas trees, but you must get a Forest Service-issued permit and follow specific guidelines, which vary from forest to forest. Learn more about forest Christmas trees.
  • If you live in an area without local Christmas tree farms or you really have your heart set on an organic tree, Silvertip Tree Farm will ship a more sustainable Christmas tree to your door. Silvertip Christmas tree farm is certified with the American Tree Farm system — which means they follow Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification, all their trees are grown organically without pesticides and they’re working toward their official organic certification.
  • No matter what sort of Christmas tree you choose, your choice becomes more eco-friendly when you recycle your Christmas tree responsibly after the holiday season ends.

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