Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how real are your branches?
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The debate crops up about this time every year – whether to have a real Christmas tree or an artificial one. Ever since those gaudy aluminum trees first surfaced in the late ’50s, the lines have been drawn. Even the company that manufactured those silver (and sometimes pastel) metallic trees admitted they thought the trend would probably only last two or three years, but instead it remained for three decades, eventually to be replaced by more natural-looking – though equally artificial – manufactured trees that folks can reuse year after year.
In the long run, it boils down to a matter of personal choice whether to bring a live evergreen from the tree lot into your living room or to get out the artificial tree from the basement or attic and set it up for another Christmas.
Lately, however, the great tree debate seems to have been elevated to a civic level. A letter writer in Sunday’s edition of the Duluth News Tribune suggested there is a certain degree of environmental disregard in cutting down an evergreen tree to serve as the city’s annual Christmas tree.
“I think the city of Duluth should hire Nathan Bentley to create a city Christmas tree,” the letter writer suggested. “This would be a sustainable, green alternative to cutting down a majestic, living organism each year. It could be programmed especially for downtown and the Christmas City of the North Parade and even to holiday music for downtown shoppers. The Bentleyville tree could have the flashy wow factor, and the downtown tree could have a more elegant, beautiful, classy look (with, for example, slow gentle waves or spirals; snowflake shapes and color changes).”
In the very same issue of the paper was an article from Minnesota Public Radio talking about how Christmas tree growers “have long touted their product as the environmentally friendly way to enjoy the Christmas tradition,” and have even adopted a new marketing slogan, “Go green and get real.” Their point is that since tree growers plant new trees every year to replace those that are cut, the whole “you’re killing a tree” accusation simply doesn’t carry much clout. What’s more, they point out, live trees provide environmental benefits as they are growing, and they are highly recyclable after being used as Christmas trees.
Also in that same issue of the paper was an article about how Chub Lake Tree Farm in rural Carlton once again took part in the “Trees for Troops” program, providing fresh evergreen trees to the families of deployed soldiers to help carry on that particularly nostalgic part of the Christmas tradition while their loved ones are away.
All of this dialogue leaves plenty of room for debate, but the fact remains that the tree growing industry is an important part of the economy for several small business owners in northern Minnesota, and that fact alone helps tip the scales in the direction of “real.”
Chub Lake Tree Farm and its supporters were able to send 106 trees to military families in Ft. Riley, Kan., this week on behalf of “Trees for Troops” – and also provided 46 trees to families of the local deployed “Crazy Troop” soldiers. The city of Cloquet once again furnished a real evergreen tree for last weekend’s ceremonial tree lighting in Veterans Park as part of the “Santa’s Home for the Holidays” celebration. Live trees are an important part of our communities’ traditions, and they’re an important part of our region’s economy.