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Christmas Trees and Being Green

December 6, 2011

Ah, the holidays.  As we gear up for whichever holiday(s) you participate in, it’s a great time to think about what we’re grateful for – family, friends, food, et cetera.

Snowy Treetops

photo from flickr / leo-avalon

Our friend Umbra at Grist magazine took a question from readers about what kind of Christmas trees are best for the planet: plastic, authentic, or what?  We recommend the read.  But it got us thinking about the symbolism of this time of year: miracles, light, and greens.

Whatever your preferred religion (or none!), many of the winter holidays are set up to celebrate  miraculous gifts and honor those in our past. Maybe we’re stuck in Thanksgiving mode, but we’re just really grateful for trees. And you don’t need to be a tree-hugger to agree.

Globally, there are about 400 billion trees left on the planet.  A tree, when you break it down to its component parts, is essentially a machine that takes organic matter from soil and uses solar energy to combine it with carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water.  And it produces a magnificent, often towering organism that supports entire ecosystems.

We don’t mean to offend any treehuggers – yes, trees are much more than pure carbon-processing machines – but this helps us think about their role.  As a species, we seem to be doing our darnedest to pump more and more carbon into the atmosphere.  But trees in particular are steadfastly fighting back, pulling some of that carbon right back out.

This year, we’re hoping to honor that.  Say a small thank-you to Christmas trees for reminding us that we’re sharing this planet. And maybe that will inspire us to do more to protect it.

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