Christmas is almost here and everyone is rushing around looking for Christmas trees to put in their homes. Some people choose real trees while others look for the best artificial Christmas trees they can find. Are those people making the better choice? Is it better for the environment to choose a real tree or should we all be looking for realistic artificial Christmas trees?
In a few weeks there will be millions of dried up evergreen trees heading to the dump. They have fulfilled their one and only requirement of decorating our homes for the holidays and will now be tossed out with the trash. Maybe you would be better off hitting the Target after Christmas clearance sales and investing in the best artificial Christmas tree you can find that will be reused over and over again? Fake trees certainly create less of a mess…I swear I am vacuuming up pine needles all the way until July! So, lets take a moment to do a little bit of investigation. Realistic artificial Christmas tree or the real thing? Which is really better for the environment
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Think About This: Approximately 34 million real Christmas trees are grown each year in the US on approximately 1 million acres worth of land. It takes up to 16 years to get a tree to the right size which requires an extensive amount of fertilizer and pesticides. Of course, during that 16 years they are helping cleanse our planet of excess carbon dioxide and producing oxygen for people to breath. There are coalitions trying to get ‘green certifications’ for tree farms that follow environmentally friendly practices but it is a fairly small program and not widely used. Trucks bring us trees from an assortment of US farms and after they serve their decorative purpose, approximately 93% are then recycled. I was impressed to see such a high number!
Real or the best artificial Christmas trees you can find?
Even the best artificial Christmas trees are almost all made of Polyvinyl chloride or PVC, which is a non-renewable petroleum-derived plastic. (in other words, you may be able to reuse them but when they eventually end up in the landfill, they aren’t going to decompose like a real tree would) They are almost all made overseas, with the majority coming from China. This produces a LOT more transportation emissions than real trees. People are drawn to artificial christmas trees because they don’t make a mess in your house and they are cheaper over the course of 10 years or so. Of course the production of that PVC Christmas tree creates some pretty nasty pollution and after 10 years you have a pile of plastic that will live in the landfill for centuries.
In all honesty, there are just way too many facts and statistics thrown around and it depends on which side of the argument you WANT to be on! The American Christmas Tree Association says that the best artificial Christmas trees are just as ‘green’ as the real ones. The Nature Conservancy, however, argues that real trees are the only way to go if you want to support the environment. I think I am leaning towards the ‘real ones are better than fake’ side of this argument. I included a few resources below if you would like to drown yourself in an assortment of facts, figures and statistics from studies sponsored by a host of different organizations.
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If you (like me) skip the Target clearance sales and go with a real tree next year…keep these suggestions in mind:
- Visit a cut-your-own tree farm instead of purchasing a pre-cut tree. (going local is always a plus!)
- Use LED lights for the most energy efficient Christmas ambiance
- Skip the plastic ornaments and use cranberries and popcorn or tinsel that you can reuse. Choose wooden over plastic ornaments.
- Turn your children’s artwork and holiday cards into tree ornaments and reuse them year after year
- Don’t forget to recycle your tree when you are finished with it. Call your local Boy Scouts, fire station, recycling station or trash company to find out where or check out the Pick Your Own Christmas Tree website for more info.
In our house, we actually have one of each…a real one with the lights, presents, etc that we decorate with the kid’s many years worth of masterpieces and a small fake one with built in lights that we put in the family room as a ‘decor’ item.
The most ecofriendly idea Go with a live potted tree! Did you know that you can actually RENT a large potted evergreen tree and have it delivered to your door by singing elves?? I kid you not! With my luck I would end up with one that was currently housing a squirrel and my daughter would force me to keep it as a pet! Hmmm…that sounds like a movie I watched recently…
Want to do a little bit of research on your own? Here are a couple of sites you may want to check out:
So, which side of the debate do YOU fall on?
Will you choose fake or the real thing?
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.