Fake Fir: Christmas Trees

Written by Leanne
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“Oh toilet brush oh toilet brush, how lovely are thy bristles...” just doesn’t have quite the same holiday ring to it as the classic carol, does it? I know I was surprised when, in the course of researching this article, I came across the humble origins of the artificial Christmas tree: in the 1930s the Addis Brush Company discovered that their toilet brush factory could produce a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree. The artificial tree is now firmly entrenched in the ethos of Christmas consumerism.

Boring Fake Tree by DaDaAce on flickr!Generally, chopping down trees is anathema to environmentalists. And re-use is an integral part of the green trilogy, leading one to assume that the once-every-six-to-ten-years purchase of a reusable tree would be hailed as heroism by those dedicated to the rescue of Earth’s arboreal reserves. Not so, my friends. As it so happens, the toilet-brush Christmas tree is produced with non-biodegradable plastic, usually in a factory far, far away (where respect for environmental regulations and lead levels seems as plastic as the products) and often isn’t even used for the full ten-year lifetime purchasers are banking on. The branches get all tangled, the papery ‘needles’ are eaten by the family feline, one of the essential segments is on holiday in the Bermuda Triangle… and a new tree must be bought.

In contrast, the real tree is 100% natural. When you’re done with it, you can recycle it for mulch, or even better, you can have a potted one that you re-plant outside at the end of the season. Despite the harvest and transport carbon costs, real trees have serious green credibility. One acre of douglas fir, a holiday favourite, can absorb 11,308.7 lbs of carbon dioxide. Christmas tree farmers also replace the cut trees - if they didn’t, they would go out of business after one year!

Creative souls have found that the main functionality provided by the Christmas tree (namely, a festive centerpiece under which gifts are placed) can be replicated in a variety of materials. Attractive displays of driftwood, cut boughs of evergreens, felted trees, cardboard creations, stacked books and light projections are all possibilities suggested by Google Images. Why not get the children involved and come up with your own alternative Christmas ‘tree’?

This article was originally published in the Decemeber 2010 edition of the Sunbeams newsletter.

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