To Tree or Not to Tree, That is the Question...

I've been procrastinating Christmas this year. 

Normally, I'm a "get the tree up at 12:01 AM Black Friday" kind of Christmas person, the holiday tunes crank out and I start to turn out cookies in record numbers.  But for some reason, this year it has taken me a lot longer to get holiday engaged.  I'll be putting up my fake tree on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  I've always lived in a house with fake trees because my dad, due to over 20 years of service on volunteer fire departments, has always been a touch paranoid about things that catch on fire too easily, and "real" Christmas trees occupy numbers one through four on his list of things that burst into flames if you look at them cross-eyed.  I guess he's not alone either.  I've been reading so many rants by residents on line who are talking about how annoyed they are that their communities aren't letting them have trees or, at least, real trees.

Why do we make these rules for our residents?  I'm guessing it comes from a few things like the fire hazard, the sap stains on interior carpeting (which are VERY difficult to get out if you've never tried!), the mess of dropped needles, and the mess of the clean up and throw away process of said tree.  I'll go with you on some of these reasons, but I'm going to go on the record as saying that plastic trees burn just as easily as real ones, and they smell a lot worse when on fire.

Luckily, I've got another good and VERY LEGITIMATE reason for you to consider nixing cut trees in your apartments.  I'm going to come clean here, and fully admit that I did hear this from John Tesh, and I will take whatever pokes to my self esteem are forth coming because he actually has REALLY good information on his show.  The other night one of his stories was about cut trees and a recent research project by the folks at WebMD. 

"According to WebMD, a new study found that live trees can bring a lot more than the fresh pine scent of the holiday season into your home. The researchers wanted to find out why there’s such a dramatic increase in asthma and sinus complaints at this time of year. So they set out to look at the relationship between mold growing on Christmas trees and poor indoor air quality.

For the study, the researchers did mold counts twelve times during a two week period, starting from the day the Christmas tree was brought inside and decorated.  The results? The spore count - which is a way to measure mold - escalated by almost six times in the next two weeks. Mold allergies affect about 15% of the population, and they make people suffer nose and throat irritation, stuffiness and headaches. There’s a strong link between asthma attacks and mold. Normal indoor air has a mold level of about 700 spores per cubic meter, but the air in the room that had a tree in it for two weeks rose to about 5,000 spores. So what should you do if you have asthma or a mold allergy?

  • Don’t keep a live tree in your home for more than a few days - and consider removing it if you see signs of increased allergies.
  • Buy an artificial tree.You’ll have to deal with the dust it gathers in storage, which may be as much of an irritant. That can be dealt with faster than mold.
  • Shake out the tree before bringing it inside to decorate - whether it’s live or artificial. This way the allergens will be released outside instead of inside."

When it comes to the health of our residents and construction in our buildings that might involve thin walls or less insulation than we'd like, 5,000 spores of mold per cubic meter in our air is something we may want to think about.  If your residents can smell when their neighbors are smoking, I'll bet they've got watery eyes when the mold count is up as well.

Do I think it should come down to policy?  Maybe not.  But  it doesn't hurt to make your residents aware of these kinds of findings before they go out and purchase their trees, perhaps on the same flier that you send out with guidelines about festive lighting.  One thing that John did suggest on the air that isn't in the article above is putting a potted tree in your home and transplanting it after the holiday.  If you have a local tree farm in your area, this could be a great partnership opportunity to work with them on getting discounted potted tree prices to your residents.  It provides better health for your residents and saves them money, it's incredibly eco-friendlier than cutting the trees down, and it's something unique enough your community may generate some buzz from the program.

Some Assembly Required

"Ain't Too Proud To Beg"