This weekend was the annual Christmas tree lighting in the small park in front my local City Hall. As you can see from the picture, the decorations aren't the most inspired - nothing but white lights, large ornaments (which you can't see after dusk) and a broad white garland that unfortunately looks a bit toilet paper-like when viewed from a distance.
I personally prefer more brightly colored holiday decor. But one of the nice things is that no tree was killed to decorate our civic center. It grows there year round, providing greenery even in the hottest part of summer. Very ecologically sound, that.
Of course a living tree isn't a usually a practical option when you put up a Christmas tree in your living room. It's not just that a tall potted fir is difficult to move. You also need someplace to put the tree when Christmas is over and the decorations have been removed – planting it in your yard requires a lot of space, considering that firs and spruces and pines can grow as tall as 100 feet.
But I was interested to read about another option in the LA Times this weekend. The Living Christmas Co. rents potted Christmas trees for the season. You just pick out your tree, and it will be delivered to your home - assuming you live in western LA County, then picked up again after Christmas. You can even adopt a special tree of your own to be delivered year after year. It's both easy and "green".
The company's owner, Scott "Scotty Claus" Martin explains his philosophy:
"How, on one hand can something mean new hope, new joy, new love, and on the other hand be so easily discarded? And is that really Christmas?" he said.
The company's mission is not just to be sustainable but "regenerative," he said. Beyond saving trees, that means using all recyclable materials, running delivery trucks on biodiesel and employing adults with disabilities to maintain the trees around the year.
There are similar companies in San Diego, San Francisco, Portland and many other cities.
The down side is that it seems a bit pricey. A 6 foot tree costs $80 to rent, plus another $40 for delivery and pickup. Adopting a specific tree costs another $50 per year, only offset a bit by a $20 credit towards the next year's rental. And of course a living tree requires more TLC than one that's going to end up on the curb come January.
Despite the cost and extra care required, I find the idea pretty appealing. It just seems so wasteful to cut down a tree, only to toss it out after a couple of weeks. We usually don't spend Christmas at home, so the past few years we've only put up a token little artificial tree. But if tree rental becomes popular enough to spread way out the the 'burbs where we live, maybe we'll give it a try.