What's wrong with Amazon selling fresh Christmas trees?

Tree farm
Public Domain AnnaElizabeth

The e-behemoth has just announced (IN SEPTEMBER) that it will be selling and shipping 7-foot trees this year. Here are the problems with that plan.

My goodness. We've barely just entered Pumpkin Spice season – which now apparently starts in the summer – and already we're talking Christmas trees. But that’s because Amazon has jumped the gun and just announced that this year they will be selling and shipping 7-foot tall, live Douglas firs, Fraser firs and Norfolk Island pines – delivered in a box to your front door. And yes, they qualify for Prime. The poor mail delivery people!

Last year the company sold smaller trees, reports the Associated Press, and third-party sellers sold larger ones, but this is the first year that the company itself is selling the big guys.

“Given the popularity among customers, we increased the assortment,” the company said.

And of course it was popular among customers. Because who wants the hassle of a holiday tradition when you can abolish said tradition in the time it takes to click “add to cart”?

While the AP notes that only around one to two percent of the 27 million live Christmas trees sold last year were purchased online – and the idea of buying a tree sight-unseen seems like a stretch – there was a time when we thought, “Why would anyone buy a book online?” So why not Christmas trees next?

Well ... maybe because it’s just too sad. But also, as explained in an email to TreeHugger from Char Miller, professor of environmental analysis and history at Pomona College, the tree-by-mail scenario is likely not the best thing for the environment.

“Unwrapping Amazon’s ‘Christmas-tree-in-a-box’ initiative will reveal some surprises, not all of them good,” says Miller.

On the one hand, Amazon would likely get a tree quickly from farm to home, meaning that the tree may last longer once it’s in the living room. And a live tree can be a better choice than a plastic one, Miller says.

But that said, the fossil fuel required to get the tree from the ground to your home – especially with long-haul trucking – will result in an extensive carbon footprint. “However green the tree, this initiative will intensify the human contribution to climate change,” says Miller. Add in the packaging – a 7-foot box and whatever packing materials a fresh tree requires – and the landfill may be taking an extra hit as well.

Aside from the eco-unfriendliness, it’s just a bit depressing to think about what we’d lose by resorting to such a service. Few things ring in the holidays more wonderfully than going out to pick a tree. Will it spell the end of sidewalk Christmas tree lots that fill the city with the scent of a forest? Of the pick-your-own farms that are a tradition amongst so many? Will they offer Charlie Brown trees for those of us who are compelled to adopt the underdogs?

It feels like such a detached way to approach the holiday – a holiday already marked by overwhelming commercialization. As Miller says, “There are some things you just cannot buy.” If Amazon could package "warm and cozy feeling of picking out a tree" and ship it as an add-on item, maybe it would be different. But until then, long live the Christmas tree lots.

OK, now back to our regular end-of-summer programming.

What's wrong with Amazon selling fresh Christmas trees?
The e-behemoth has just announced (IN SEPTEMBER) that it will be selling and shipping 7-foot trees this year. Here are the problems with that plan.

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