An average Christmas tree travels a great distance on its journey from field to family room to landfill. But Vancouverites concerned about how the holiday tradition affects the environment — and the local economy — have options for shortening that path.
Buying a B.C.-grown Christmas tree offers both environmental and economic benefits, said Arthur Loewen, president of the British Columbia Christmas Tree Council’s southwest division.
The council represents around 125 growers, with more than 50 farms in the southwest of the province. Members meet to discuss growing practices, disease treatment and market conditions.
According to Loewen, the market for B.C. Christmas trees has been hurt by imports. Almost all of the trees found in Vancouver area chain stores like IGA, Save On Foods and Canadian Tire are imported from the U.S.
“[U.S. growers] can produce a tree for cheaper than we can, in a lot higher volumes,” said Loewen. “Fortunately, we have a lot of people who want a locally grown tree, one that’s fresher and helping our own industry.”
Loewen said B.C. now imports 200,000 Christmas trees each season. That’s a major shift from when he started growing in the early ’70s, when B.C. exported that many trees. He said the cost of property and labour has tipped the scales in favour of growers in Washington and Oregon.
This year, the Christmas tree council sold close to 250,000 certification tags to its members. The tags, which are four inches long and attached to the crown of the tree, indicate that the tree was grown in B.C.
While the sticker price for a B.C. tree and an import are both between $20 and $25, a local tree costs a supplier twice as much. U.S. trees can be bought wholesale for as low as $9.25 a piece, said Loewen.
According to Loewen, most growers in southwestern B.C. operate choose-and-cut farms. For Vancouver residents looking for local trees, there are six farms on 248th street in Langley, he said.
Live Christmas trees are also an option. Evergrow Christmas trees in Burnaby offers drop off and pick up services for their potted trees, allowing buyers to get the same tree year after year. Even though Evergrow trees cost between $140 and $200, the company has sold out for Christmas 2012.
“[Evergrow] keep on buying more fresh potted trees off us each year. I’d guess half the trees they use are recycled trees,” said Loewen. “They’ll take the tree out and plant them over the summer and bring them back next year.
Cut trees eventually end up at the city landfill, where they are composted. A City of Vancouver spokesperson said the city will run drop off locations around the city on Jan. 5 and 6. Trees are picked up with yard waste until Jan. 31.