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Tree safety tips: Christmas Tree Safety Tips PDF for Printing
House Fires are not caused by Christmas Trees
Every year we hear a news report about Christmas tree safety. In typical modern media sensationalist style, these stories are usually framed in the form of warnings, loaded with innuendoes about how Christmas trees always tend to be at the center of holiday house fires. Is that a big surprise? If a house burns and there’s a tree in the living room, the tree will burn too, right? That does not mean the Christmas tree caused the fire. In fact, there were only 111 instances last year where the tree was even the first item to burn. Among those households, none reported that the tree was the cause of the fire.
A properly watered natural Christmas tree is not a fire hazard. Frayed wiring and overloaded electrical outlets are. For those of you looking into buying a natural tree this Christmas, think about that before you put it up in your living room. Clear some space and make sure that no other appliances or electronics are running into the wall outlet you’re plugging the tree lights into. Use a new power strip if you have multiple plugs and make sure the surge protection feature works. Power surges are not common these days, but they and brownouts do happen.
Statistics show that artificial trees are likely to catch fire sooner than a natural tree when a house fire occurs. A natural fresh cut tree is green wood kept fresh by water, and a fir or pine tree is filled with wood sap, a substance that makes burning more difficult. Have you ever tried to throw fresh-cut pinewood into a campfire? It smokes a whole lot but takes a few minutes to light up. Even the pine needles don’t burn well. That’s one of the reasons evergreens were first chosen to be Christmas trees. The original sacred tree in Germany was an oak. Pine is safer for indoor use.
Electrified lights for a Christmas tree became popular in the 1950’s because decorating with lighted candles was dangerous. Back then; if they actually had the media outlets we have today, those somber “warnings” might have been justified. With the safety precautions we’re able to take today, house fires started at the Christmas tree have become a rarity. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use caution, but don’t pass on the chance to have a real Christmas tree in your living room out of fear.
There are many types of trees used as Christmas Trees. Click on the tree type to see pictures:
When selecting a real tree:
Christmas Trees are grown to be Harvested
There are those who would have you believe that purchasing a fresh cut Christmas tree is not an environmentally friendly act. On the contrary, Christmas trees are planted with the sole intent of harvesting them on time for the holiday season. Every time one of these farmed trees is cut down another one is planted in its place, ensuring that the cycle of life continues. That cycle is ten years long, during which time the land that the trees grow on cannot be used for anything else. In our book, that’s called natural preservation, not anti-environmental deforestation.
Ninety-nine percent of all Christmas trees sold in the United States are grown on Christmas tree farms. In other words, they are planted with the sole intent of harvesting them when they mature, much like crops of corn, soybeans, and wheat. Is it wrong to harvest those crops? Of course it isn’t, so why should cutting down Christmas trees when they’re at an optimum size be disputed? Truth be told, their presence actually helps the environment, consuming carbon dioxide and generating oxygen.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, the Christmas tree you will buy this year will most likely be either a fir or pine tree. The most common are the Douglas fir and the Balsam fir, both resilient breeds that hold their shape and stay green for weeks after being cut. Other, less popular substitutes, like the Blue and White Spruce, tend to lose their needles too quickly after being cut, so tree farms don’t generally grow them. If you happen to see one at a home or public location, it was most likely cut from the wild.
In certain parts of Europe, the spruce is more common and can be found growing on Christmas tree farms. The Norway spruce and the Serbian Spruce are good examples of this. Fir trees are also popular in Europe, since their needles are softer, and the Swiss pine has been gaining in popularity of late. All totaled, there are 96 million farm-grown Christmas trees sold each holiday season. Over 100 million new ones are planted each year, so is the environment really suffering from this practice? We think not. The land is preserved, oxygen is created, and the time-honored custom of cutting down your own Christmas tree is preserved – without deforestation.
Real or Artificial?
Did you know that the first artificial Christmas trees were wooden poles with dyed goose feathers attached to them? They were common in 19th Century Germany where deforestation for industrial development brought about a concerted conservation effort on the part of local residents. Ranging in size from just two inches to over six feet, these creative holiday “trees” became so popular that they were eventually sold in stores.
In the 1930’s, the Addis Brush Company, seeking to monopolize and profit on the artificial Christmas tree trend, manufactured the first brush bristle tree, direct ancestor to our modern day aluminum and plastic trees. Will you buy one of those this year? Is an artificial tree actually a “greener” option as those who created them believed, or are they in fact a more economically impactful choice? How will you make your choice?
• While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen.
• Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms just like any crop.
• To ensure a constant supply, Christmas Tree farmers plant new seedlings for every tree they harvest.
• Real Christmas Trees are usually farmed on small or family owned businesses.
• Christmas Trees are often grown on soil that does not support other crops. The farms that grow Christmas Trees stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife.
• Farm-grown trees are biodegradable, which means they can easily be reused or recycled for mulch or other purposes.
• American Forests, a world leader in tree planting for environmental restoration, has publicly endorsed the commercial growing and use of farm-grown Christmas Trees.
• Real Trees can be recycled in a number of ways, including mulch for parks and trails, in lakes and ponds for fish habitat, dune and coastline restoration efforts and as boiler fuel for factories.
Most artificial Christmas trees today are made of PVC plastic, but you can also buy wood, aluminum, glass or ceramic. There are even companies that manufacture trees out of fiber optic cable and some that make upside down Christmas trees for space conservation. Your choices are diverse and numerous. You may remember feeling overwhelmed the last time you did some holiday ornament and decoration shopping. Has Christmas become too commercialized?
Step back, take a deep breath, and remember what the holiday is supposed to be all about. You can buy that bright pink Christmas tree with glow in the dark tinsel if you want to or you can keep it simple and go with a simple, natural fir tree. You will not be participating in deforestation if you do because most Christmas trees today are actually grown for the sole purpose of being chopped down for the holidays. Yours is most likely nearing maturity right now. Be sure to pick it up early so your whole family can enjoy it.
A Christmas tree is a symbol of hope. It is a beacon to light the way for those desperately in need of holiday spirit. Real or artificial, it becomes a gathering place and focal point for all who reside where it stands, a sight that brings a smile to those who need it and a feeling of joy to family gatherings. It doesn’t matter what kind of Christmas tree you put up this year. What matters is that you have one, even if it’s just a few dyed feathers tied to a pole. Merry Christmas.
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