© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Live Christmas Trees Good For Environment

Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons

The Christmas tree has the ability to spruce up indoor holiday decorations. But KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton says the tradition is also a benefit for the environment.

The tradition of holiday trees is actually an environmentally sane custom. Cut native trees are a way to thin young stands in the forest. Yes, a lot of the areas where young trees are growing too thickly are old clear cuts. And clear cuts aren’t exactly environmentally or forest friendly. But cutting some of the new growth trees allows light and air into the forest. The other trees benefit, building a healthier, stronger plant community.

These are the native trees you can cut yourself, like fragrant lodgepole pine or sub-alpine fir. They’re also the native trees offered at local garden centers and lots. The trees come out of designated areas. Cutters, including the cut-your-own-folks, can only harvest trees from areas that need thinned. Every year the areas change so a new part of the forest is thinned.

Plantation grown trees – Frasier Fir, Balsam Fir, Grand Fir, Scotch Pine – also improve our environment. Thousands of acres of trees are planted to supply the demand for the holidays. Those millions of trees clean the air. The trees take carbon monoxide out of the air, metabolize it and give off fresh, clean air. This clear air is blown around the planet from wherever the trees are grown. The sweet thing is that the farmers who grow the trees don’t just whack them down and move on. They continue to plant more trees ever year, more natural air cleaners.

Live holiday trees have an obvious environmental benefit. After the holidays they can be planted. They beautify landscapes; add to our urban forests; and are a growing reminder of happy holidays. Live trees can be about any kind of conifer you need for your landscape. Well, maybe a Larch wouldn’t work since they lose their needles in the winter. A live tree can be decorated inside for four or five days; then taken out and planted. It’ll grow and beautify for years.

Recycle cut holiday trees. Many communities and private businesses offer recycling programs after the season. The mountains of trees are chipped. The chips are added to compost to build garden soils or used as mulch to conserve moisture.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
Related Content