Throughout Maine, more than 1.2 million Christmas trees are growing quietly on about 300 plots of land. Each tree will progress slowly from seed to seedling, from youth to maturity, until they're harvested 12 years later for their brief moment of glory in living rooms and parlors throughout the land.
During that slow, silent journey, the trees will provide habitat for birds and insects and they will absorb carbon dioxide from the air and deliver it into the soil. And, increasingly, Christmas trees are finding a second life in Maine communities as mulch in parks and playgrounds or as biomass fuel.
When trees are cut and decompose, they release their stored carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere. However, many Maine towns now reuse the trees in ways that lessen the carbon release.
In Portland, the city collects about 20,000 Christmas trees every year, which are either burned for energy or chipped for mulch. Many other Maine towns are doing similar things with their discarded Christmas trees.