Charla Huber: Nursery aims to grow interest in buying live Christmas trees

It’s December, and many of us are preparing for Christmas and looking forward to time off from work. Most of us will prioritize time with our friends and family, but there is always an element of commercialism that comes along with the holidays.

As a parent, I try to give more experiences to my daughter than plastic items that will end up piled in a closet. I try to give meaningful gifts, and I am mindful to use reusable or recyclable wrapping.

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I have had a plastic Christmas tree for as long as I can remember. It sits in the closet for the entire year and then finds its way out of the box for a couple weeks in December. Sure, the plastic tree isn’t one-time use, it can be used for years, but it’s still plastic that will one day end up in a landfill.

Fresh trees are becoming more and more popular. This week, I was reading of a Christmas tree shortage in the United States that will be raising the cost of some trees here in Canada. The tree shortage in the States stems from a shortage of seedlings a few years ago, as well as droughts and hot summers. Some Christmas tree growers in Oregon are closing for business this year, and some are closing for good.

Last year Kelly Chashai, of Down to Earth Gardens and Nursery, decided to start selling Christmas trees for the holidays. When looking for sources, she discovered most of the fresh cut Christmas trees on the Island are trucked in from Nova Scotia.

“I thought: ‘That can’t be right. We live in a forest,’” said Chashai.

There are some tree farms here on the Island, but the demand is too great, and most trees sold here are bought from elsewhere.

Chashai found a Christmas tree broker who could secure cut trees from British Columbia, which reduces the carbon footprint of travelling across the country.

Last year, the cut trees Chashai brought in were sold out in two weeks, and this year she’s bringing in more.

A fresh tree offers a beautiful esthetic and smell in the home. I have never as an adult had a fresh cut tree, but when I go to someone’s home with one, it’s great.

Chashai is hoping to entice people one step further with a more sustainable option.

“People want cut trees, but we’d like to convert people to live trees,” Chashai said. “If people buy live trees, there would be less waste and less trees would need to be trucked in.”

Chashai shared stories of families purchasing a live tree to honour a family member who passed away and then after the holiday season the tree was planted.

This works well for people with a place to plant a tree, but there are some situations where this isn’t viable, such as condo dwellers or renters, like myself.

In search of a solution to making live trees a viable option to more people, Chashai has reached out to some municipalities about developing a program where people can purchase a live tree and then donate it to a municipality to be planted later.

At this point, the conversations have been preliminary, but Chashai hopes to find a partner willing to accept trees after the holidays.

I would like to see this come to fruition. If I knew I could have a nice-sized living tree in my home for Christmas and then donate it to a park after, I would find that very rewarding. I would much rather see Christmas trees live on instead of ending up as mulch.

A live tree does cost a little more than a cut tree, but the live tree can continue to benefit our environment and would give back instead of becoming waste. It lowers our carbon footprint at a time of year when consumption and consumerism soars.

During my interview with Chashai, she shared with me that her background is in film and television makeup. For the next few weeks, she’s hired a professional actor to play the Grinch and she will be doing the makeup and the building prosthetics as well. The Grinch will be at Down to Earth Gardens and Nursery every weekend until Christmas.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

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