Every year, a customer asks Harvard Christmas tree farmer Ben Czarnowski if chopping down a tree is the "green" thing to do.
"In fact, by supporting the Christmas tree farmers, you are helping the environment," Czarnowski tells them. "Besides, if I didn't grow trees here, I would grow beans or corn."
Some farmers, including Czarnowski, also grow their trees organically, sans pesticides and herbicides.
Should a fire occur in a house with a fresh Christmas tree, the homeowner isn't subject to the carcinogens released by some artificial trees.
After Christmas, the tree is biodegradable. Many Chicago-area municipalities chip the trees for homeowners' gardens or for public parks.
All in all, cutting your own, fresh tree, is an eco-smart alternative to buying an artificial one, says Czarnowski.
About that insect ...
Worried that hauling a Christmas tree across county lines will violate bans established to curb emerald ash borers? Not a problem, says the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The bans do not apply to Christmas (coniferous) trees, says the DNR.
Don't forget to...
Pack a saw; not all farmers provide one.
Bring cash or a check because many do not accept credit cards.
Bring a blanket or tarp to protect your car from the tree's needles.
Learn more about Christmas tree farms and get information on local locations at the National Christmas Tree Association.