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Why the Greenest Christmas Tree is a Rental

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There’s a San Diego-based company that’s asking an interesting question this holiday season: Have you ever stopped to think about the environmental impact of the estimated 32 million Christmas trees that Americans buy each year?

xmastree.jpgI know I haven’t, and I’m certain many others haven’t either. That’s partly because, even in our increasingly eco-conscious society, the concept of “impact” can be elusive. People who buy a fake tree could claim the environmental high road because they’ll buy one and reuse it. Those who buy a real tree, on the other hand, could claim, legitimately, that their choice is natural and will decompose.

But what if neither option is very eco friendly? In the ever-evolving game of defining what’s “green” as we attempt to hold on to convenience and tradition, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As Adopt A Christmas Tree, the aforementioned company, points out, those heaps of (real) trees discarded after Christmas give off a considerable amount of carbon. Fake trees, meanwhile, are often shipped from China, and made out of plastic.

What Adopt A Christmas Tree and others like it are proposing as a solution is simple and, quite frankly, brilliant: Buy a potted tree from them, then give it back after the holidays and they’ll replant it. These “tree rentals” end up in community gardens, schoolyards, parks, and other welcome places. In many cases, companies will do the drop-off and the picking up, making it not only the most sustainable, but the most convenient option as well.

The downside is that these businesses only operate in a few areas, mainly cities on the West coast like Portland and Seattle. But it’s a trend worth keeping an eye on, especially for supercenter formats that operate a nursery or gardening department. For others, it’s a good lesson about how, in the march towards building a more sustainable business, there are always “greener” pastures.

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