We think of Ithaca as a place concerned, if not obsessed, with the environmental aspects of many facets of life.
(GreenStar Co-op, for instance, sells Organic Salt. It's tough to figure what the opposite is.
Of course, there are worse obsessions, and furthermore, it's not just Ithaca. One of the most e-mailed stories from the New York Times right now is "Free or Farmed, When Is a Fish Really Organic?".)
So it goes without saying that there are environmental issues about Christmas trees. Is there such thing as an organic Christmas tree? Are Christmas trees ecologically good, bad, or neutral? Which is more ecological, artificial or real?
There certainly is such thing as an organic Christmas tree. Christmas trees, like any agricultural product, can be grown with chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, or without.
The Department of Agriculture does not currently have a certification program for trees. Mike Ludgate of Ludgate Produce Farms says that is a bit of a problem for conscientious sellers, as it prevents them from promoting organic trees as such. But the trees at Ludgates would qualify for such designation, if it existed. Theirs are 100% naturally raised, no chemicals of any kind, and they come from local farms, so their environmental footprint is light, indeed. (The origin of trees from the mega-stores is harder to determine, and they may well come from mega-farms far away, thus involving a lot of fossil fuel in transport.)
Best of all is the fact that the locally-raised tree is not just neutrally benign for the earth, but actively positive. Trees are grown on farms, rather than taken from forests. An acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people. They provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. And because of their hardiness, they grow where other things won't, increasing soil stability.
Fake Christmas trees, on the other hand, seem to be actively bad. Most are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and have ingredients like lead, thus carry warnings to avoid ingesting any dust from them. Quite a contrast from the heady smell of a fresh evergreen. No warning labels attached to that.
Mike Ludgate reports that trees are ready and waiting. Ludgates also sells wreaths handcrafted from their own farm.
Ithaca Blog will follow up this piece with more jolly news and offerings from other suppliers around town.
for Ithaca Blog