In a feat of unprecedented organization, on December 18 my Christmas tree was up and running. Usually, it was a matter of scuttling to Home Depot at 6 pm on December 23 or 24 and lug home the saddest tree on the lot, the one nobody wanted and destined to be shipped straight to the mulching field without ever having been graced with ornaments or surrounded by gifts. But it was cheap.
Prompted by a series of rainstorms hailed by cable news and radio, ready to hit Southern California (and one is battering my house as I write), this year I drove to Home Depot nearly 10 days before Christmas Day and took my time in choosing a 7’ Noble Fir that set me back more than the usual runt of Christmases past. And now it sits in the living room, glittering and sparkling, with new and old lights – Ottie, on his 4th Christmas here, is used to the ritual, and placidly watched the proceedings of the ornaments being retrieved from the garage and unpacked, from the comfort of the rug while Portia was trying to figure out why something that is supposed to live outside was suddenly in the middle of her house. And, not even 5 minutes after I walked out of the room, satisfied with a job well done, she reached for one of the lower ornaments that, much to my and her dismay, shattered on the floor.
I have been trying to find reasons to make me feel good about buying a real tree instead of the polyurethane ones so popular at Target. For the two weeks my tree will be up, I will love every minute of the piney smell, the bright lights against the long and dreary nights and the bit of nature next to the fireplace. But is it p.c. I wondered?
Well, this tree is no different from the lettuce and zucchini I bring home from the market, all of them grown for the purpose of being one day cut and enjoyed away from their original surroundings. As it was growing, my tree contributed oxygen and it was definitely not felled from some depleted forest. Once its course is done, it will become mulch or compost. The only drawback is the carbon emissions emitted by my car on the way to Home Depot (10 miles). All this versus the PVC of some plastic tree made in China that yes, can be reused but, when discarded, won’t be recyclable.
Or so I convinced myself. And, for once in my life, I am actually sort of right. In an exhaustive article in Saturday’s New York Times, someone much smarter than me expounded more or less the same theory in many more words and citing experts and statistics that validated my common sense. For a plastic tree to erase the pollution that its making created, the owner would have to use it 20 times – let’s face it, how many of you out there with fake trees, are planning to keep them for 20 straight Christmases?
So I will enjoy my Noble Fir, guilt-free, this year and for longer than usual. Possibly with a smug I-told-you-so expression on my face.