A Christmas Tree Story

Growing up in a spiritually non-denominational house, we celebrated a wide variety of holidays, including Christmas, in our own way. We had all kinds of decorated coniferous tree experiences, including the Christmas palm tree, Christmas trees in pots that were transplanted outside in the spring, and more than one Christmas bonsai. As an adult, most city apartments won’t let you have a live tree so I got a little table top variety with white lights and a faux root ball, somewhat of a throwback to the winter holidays of my childhood and which I lovingly referred to as my ChrismaHannuKwanzica Bush.

This year I moved into my first row home in Philadelphia, and with it came the chance to have a real tree in almost 6 years. Of course I waited until the last minute, venturing out one cold and blustery night 2 days before Christmas. Racing against the clock, I picked through the not-so-evergreen charlie brown rejects, hoping to rescue one from certain landfill death. I ended up with a rotund prospect that rained needles all over my house, creating a bit of a bald spot in the back (and a huge mess on my living room floor).

My first-ever real-live tree is simply decorated with a strand of colored lights and paper flowers I made from recycled tissue paper. I love it; if it were up to me it would stay up for months, but wanting to do the responsible thing, I started to investigate my environmentally conscious options. Christmas trees are an incredible natural resource; full of nutrients, they can be used for composting and mulch, stop embankment erosion or even placed in water habitats to provide protection for creatures of the not-so-deep.

Throwing out a Christmas tree not only contributes to a growing landfill problem, but also wastes all of that tree’s potential for making a positive contribution to the environment. I’m not sure if I’m ready to part with my non-denominational symbol of hope and renewal, but I do know I don’t want it to end up in the landfill, which is exactly what will happen if it goes out on trash day. A door to door tree pick up with the city’s current budget would be totally implausible; however, The City of Philadelphia does have a tree recycling program taking place from January 9th – January 16th 2010. Several neighborhood associations and community centers have set up tree drop off locations during this time period to make tree recycling accessible to everyone.

2010 Treecycling in Philadelphia:

All of the current options require a car for most residents, many of whom don’t have one, and attempting to navigate Septa with a rapidly degrading evergreen is equally unpractical. Centrally located community drop-off points are a great solution that may require some problem solving, but the effort is well worth it. Ask around, maybe you know someone with a car willing to help, or maybe you have a car that you can donate for tree transport for an afternoon. Feel free to list any additional community tree recycling programs in the comments below. Have a wonderful, environmentally friendly new year!

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1 comment so far

  1. lomophilly on

    Hi Kara,

    I’m helping to organize the TreeCycling event this Saturday at Columbus Square Park (13th & Reed in South Philly). A number of civic associations have teamed up to make the event possible. We are able to help folks without trucks/cars get their trees to the recycling location for a modest donation. If anyone in the South Philly area is interested in recycling their Christmas tree but is without access to a vehicle, feel free to email lomophilly@gmail.com and we’ll try to work something out.

    Happy Recycling!


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