If you’ve noticed more friends on social media documenting their trips to choose a live Christmas tree, you’re seeing part of a larger trend in the Chesapeake region.
Sales of real trees (as opposed to the artificial variety) are up this year, whether you’re tromping through a field to cut down your own or choosing the prettiest tree sitting on the lot.
The Maryland Christmas Tree Association says real tree sales are up 20 percent over last year. And most tree farms closed early, opening for two weekends and quickly selling out.
Association Treasurer Jonice Underwood says there has been a 15 percent increase at her own farm, Pine Valley Christmas Trees in Elkton, “at the head of the Chesapeake Bay,” as she puts it.
Underwood surmises that in the midst of a pandemic, people are seeking out real trees for comfort and normalcy. She also notes more people are home than usual, giving them time to take care of a real tree.
And the rise in popularity is beneficial for the environment, though it may seem counterintuitive for chopping down trees to be a good thing.
“We’re consuming less fake trees, less plastic trees. Plastic trees are not recyclable. They’re going to end up in the landfill and stay there forever,” Underwood says.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the average artificial petroleum-based tree is used for just six to nine years before it is thrown out.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) urges folks in the Bay watershed to “get real” when it comes to Christmas trees, noting they are “biodegradable and after the season can be recycled as mulch or compost, added to the landscape as food and habitat for wildlife, or placed into lakes and ponds to benefit aquatic life.”
When you’re done with your tree after the holidays, many communities offer recycling programs and curbside pickup. You can find Maryland’s list here. Pickourownchristmastree.org offers a roundup of Virginia locations.
Even the act of growing the trees helps stabilize soil and reduce runoff, as well as clean the air.
“Christmas trees are grown specifically as an agricultural crop. The older the tree is, the less oxygen it’s producing. The younger trees produce more oxygen, which is beneficial to all of us,” says Underwood.
Of course, as CBF points out, buying a tree in burlap or a pot, then planting it on your property after the holidays, may be the most beneficial route of all—the gift that keeps on giving to the environment.
-Meg Walburn Viviano