Canada produces about 5.5 million Christmas trees each year and the Nature Conservancy of Canada is concerned about how they are disposed of. After the trees are purchased, brought into homes and decorated for the Christmas season, they are eventually thrown out.
Discarded trees can provide warmth
The conservation group says sending them to the dump is not the best solution because the trees simply rot and emit methane gas which contributes to climate change. Instead, it suggests people put them in their backyards, even it it’s only for a few months.
“The reason why is that it can help overwintering birds,” says Andrew Holland, spokesman for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “We have diminishing bird populations here in Canada. Their struggling in many ways in terms of the numbers.
“A lot of birds try to stay here in Canada and try to hack our tough winter climate… (A Christmas tree in the backyard) can provide some warm habitat for birds.”
Holland says the trees can also be a source of warmth for squirrels. By April, the branches may be removed and left on the ground and holes can be drilled into the trunk to enhance decomposition which, in turn, fertilizes the soil.
Many disposal plans exist
Not everyone has a backyard or one big enough to accomodate a tree. And many people may simply not like the idea of looking at a dead tree there.
Several municipalities across Canada have alternative disposal plans. They may collect trees, chip them and compost them or use them for such things at trail bedding.
Holland says that in his eastern province of New Brunswick trees are dumped on shores to prevent coastal erosion. And some pulp and paper companies collect and burn them for a fuel alternative to oil.
Growing, cutting trees is okay for conservationist
The Nature Conservancy of Canada does not oppose the cutting of trees for Christmas. Holland says it is a tradition that is very important as is the business. Canada has about 19-hundred Christmas tree farms that provide employment particularly in rural regions in the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. And before the trees are harvested, they also capture carbon, emit oxygen and provide habitat for birds. So, the main concern of the Nature Conservancy of Canada is not the harvesting of Christmas trees, but the way in which we dispose of them.
Andrew Holland outlines ways to dispose of Christmas trees that are good for the environment.Listen