christmas tree

When I was a kid growing up in Northern Ontario, getting a Christmas tree often involved bumping down some icy back road, breaking trail into the forest and cutting one down. That might make some environmentalists cringe, but not as much as plastic. The verdict has long been out and it’s pretty clear. Buy real.

Plastic trees have a lot of strikes against them. They’re made from petroleum products, will never, ever decompose, are mass produced in what must be somewhat unsavoury conditions in overseas factories, use lots of fossil fuels just to get here and, simply, do not smell as nice.

Real trees, on the other hand, have more than just that bewitching aroma. They also provide oxygen, local jobs (five to six million are grown in Canada) and are biodegradable. In my town, discarded Christmas trees are mulched at the landfill, a product then sold back to gardeners in the warmer months.

Besides, getting a real tree can be a great reason for a family outing. And if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the regions now fully embraced by snow, the experience this year will be truly traditional. At tree farms around my area, the work horses won’t have to drag their jingling sleighs through the mud and that much-needed hot chocolate will steam in the crisp, cold air.

In Central Ontario, Drysdale’s, near Alliston, is the big draw, with 400 acres of balsam, pine, fir and spruce trees. With wagon rides, face painting and other activities, it’s so popular that Santa even drops by with the Mrs. on December weekends.

But there are lots of other tree farms to choose from. Close to Orillia, Gillespie U-Cut is down a rolling country road in rural Oro-Medonte while Hawkins Tree Farm (705-325-0277), near Casino Rama, sells Scotch Pine.

And for the ultimate in earth-friendly accessorizing in your living room, as Forest Ethics suggests, buy a potted tree that can be replanted later or purchase one from an organic farm that doesn’t use pesticides like Orchard Hill Farm in St. Thomas, Ontario.