Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Toxic Are Thy Branches?

Well, the first of the big seasonal holidays is over, now it's clearly time to start preparations for the Really Big Show. Actually, it seems to have been time for a while. When I went to a local grocery store several weeks ago, I was surprised to find live Christmas trees in their prepurchase bondage filling up a big chunk of the parking lot. Driving to and from D.C. for Thanksgiving I saw many vehicles with a tree now bondaged to the roof. Then, I read this article: Chemical Christmas, in Emagazine, and I was off to research a better way.

The article discusses the pesticides used in Christmas tree farming, and their effects on the mainly immigrant laborers who work with them. It never occurred to me that bringing a holiday tree into the home meant also bringing in something saturated with deadly chemicals, that had perhaps contributed to conditions like these for the workers who grew the tree and kept it green and shapely.

A worker poisoned with Asana could experience dizziness, burning, itching, blurred vision, tightness in the chest, convulsions, nausea, vomiting, headache, weakness or tremors, according to EXTOXNET, a network of university cooperative extension offices from across the United States. As with Dimethoate, swallowing less than two tablespoons of Asana can kill a grown man.
It's seldom that we do a tree, when it's just the two of us we celebrate the winter holidays very quietly. This year, however, we're going to have a lot of company for one last time in this wonderful big house. Company will include children, so we'll need a tree.

I got to work researching organic Christmas trees, and was happy to see organic awareness is growing in the industry. Most trees are farmed in Oregon or North Carolina. Oregon isn't as with-the-program yet, but I found the North Carolina Organic Growers - Updated for 2005: Organic and Sustainably-Grown North Carolina Christmas Trees and Wreaths. Somewhere in my research I found that most of the N.C. organic trees are shipped to the Washington, D.C. area for sale. This is good, and I have my sister on the job of locating one. This article won't help you find an organic tree, but it's a lovely little piece from the Community Resource Forestry Center: Beyond Bare-Ground: Organic Christmas Trees in the South.

If you live in New England, this is a good resource for things green and Christmasy: Pine Ridge Farm, in central Maine. Pennsylvania and Texas also have organic tree farms, a little Googling will find you one.

A real tree, especially an organic one, will serve as a gift to the wildlife in your yard long after the holidays are over. Toss the tree in the backyard and hang cranberry chains, suet, pinecones smeared with peanut butter, popcorn strings, things birds and critters like. The branches make great sheltered places for them to munch. Best of all is a live tree, but they entail more effort to keep alive indoors and then, to plant, than many folks know about, or are willing to undertake. This article from National Audubon is wonderfully informative on that score: 365 Days of Christmas. It's a great article, full of good suggestions, especially on providing a leftover Christmas tree feasting place for backyard birds. The National Christmas Tree Association provides a search via zip code for tree recyclers in your area, if you want to donate your tree for mulch.

For those green readers across the pond, here is a site that makes me green with ENVY. It's the Organic Christmas Guide 2004, the latest edition I could find. It mainly lists sources for every item your heart could possibly desire for hosting the perfect organic holiday breakfast, dinner, tea, midnight snack. Turkeys, geese, puddings, pies, nuts, wines and spirits, dried fruits, mincemeat, chocolates - ALL ORGANIC. There are also gift suggestions, and finally - at the very end, there are places to find organically-grown trees.

My, I'm already exhausted from the holiday tasks - and all I've done is write about them! Not really, I'm actually looking foward to preparing the most organic of Hannukah/Christmas seasons yet for friends and family. It's going to be a Delaware farewell and a door opening into our new life in the Southwest.

posted at 1:35:00 PM by marigolds2

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