Contributing Monkie GreenChef Staff Monkies
Published on December 4, 2009
Nothing invokes the warm spirit of Christmas like the eye candy of a glowing, ornamented pine tree in the living room. 25 million homes in the U.S. have one each year. The fresh natural scent of real pine permeating the room can instantly transport the imagination to lush, snow covered forests.
But just how pure and fresh are the Christmas trees? I always imagined, seeing how they’re just trees, that they grow effortlessly and without intervention on tree farms. So, you could imagine my shock when I looked into how they’re grown and discovered what a chemical-intensive crop it really is.
Christmas tree farms heavily spray a variety of toxic pesticides throughout the long 8-10 year growing phase, risking the lives of the predominately Latino immigrant workers. Ironic that in order for Americans to celebrate their fortunes, they must endanger the lives of non-Americans.
Is this the American dream or something far more sinister?
Some farms use up to 40 different pesticides and chemical colorants. The farm workers are exposed to some of the deadliest pesticides available, such as glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup Ready), dimethoate, lindane and esfenvalerate. These pesticides have all been linked to various side effects, including headaches, dizziness, tremors, nausea, abdominal pain, central nervous system depression, sweating and convulsions.
Worst of all is the use Di-Syston 15-G, an organophosphate known to cause dizziness, convulsions, nausea, unconsciousness and is a known carcinogen. Considered the most dangerous of all pesticides, the EPA has threatened to ban Di-Syston, but never actually followed through.
With all the problems involved with pesticide use, it’s fair to wonder if it’s more environmentally friendly to simply buy a fake Christmas tree. After doing some research, I say no way. The fake variety are not only made of extremely toxic PVC, among many other nasty chemicals, but many of them also contain lead(!). People who are sensitive or have weakened immune systems (like the elderly) can get very sick from having on of these fakes in their house. Plus, curious pets and children, should they decide to eat any of the pine needles, are at risk of high and direct exposure to lead and other toxins.
On top of that, the fake Christmas trees are primarily made in Chinese factories that employ various health risks and poor working conditions. Hardly what you’d call “merry”.
Is it possible have a healthy, green Christmas?
You could go without a tree, as I have done for the past 5 years. But if you really want the real thing, you don’t have to settle for a pesticide laden one. There are several options for finding an organic and sustainably-grown tree for your family holidays. If grown naturally, there are many benefits to the environment from the tree farms. (Just remember to recycle your tree after the holidays.)
Organically grown and pesticide free Christmas trees:
In NorthWestern Toronto, there’s Laura’s Trees.
In Kansas, check out Chestnut Charlie’s.
In Maine, go to Pine Ridge Farm.
In New York, there’s Ludgate Farms.
In Pennsylvania, see Spring Hills Farm.
In Virginia, check out Clover Hollow Christmas Tree Farm.
If you’re in the UK, try Church Farm Fresh Christmas Trees.
You can also search Local Harvest for a farm in your area, or ask around to find out which tree farms near you are pesticide free.
Make your Christmas merrier than ever!