This year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a Norway Spruce from Easton CT. It stands 76 feet tall and weighs 10 tons. That’s big, and it’s certainly beautiful. But some of you may be asking: how much environmental benefit was lost in bringing THAT thing to Manhattan?
Funny you should ask. It is estimated that an average-sized mature tree can absorb 13 lbs of carbon annually, and an acre of trees absorbs about 2.6 tons. That’s interesting, because each person produces about 2.3 tons of carbon per year. So 1 person ≈ 1 acre of trees. Then, if you consider that the United States contains approximately 2.6 billion acres of land, you can see how much potential we have for absorbing carbon.
Let’s take this for a holiday spin. If each family in the United States planted a live Christmas tree this year, the total yearly carbon output of the country would be immediately reduced by 5%. In addition, the Forest Service estimates that, over a 50-year life span, each one of those trees would produce $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycle $37,500 worth of water, and control $31,250 worth of soil erosion. The benefits are even better in urban locations. City trees that shade buildings and cut down on air conditioning are as environmentally beneficial as 15 trees planted away from buildings.
With that in mind, should the Rockefeller Center folks consider bringing a live tree to Manhattan? Only if they’re willing to deal with a root ball some 40 feet across. But for the rest of us, a live Christmas tree may be a good idea. A little heavy to be sure, but entirely manageable. Just remember to keep it well-watered, and don’t keep it too long in the heat of the house. And, if you live in the north, you may want to go dig your planting hole now, before the ground freezes.
Consider it a Christmas gift to the environment. Dig, baby, dig.