The Christmas Tree Debate: Real or Fake?
We love trees. They clean our air and water, store our carbon, and lend a hand in creating many of the things we depend on, from our homes and furniture to our beloved Louisville Sluggers. So we should never, ever cut one down for the sole purpose of decorating our living rooms for the month of December, right? Actually, wrong.
"If you choose a real Christmas tree over an artificial one, count yourself among the ‘greener' holiday makers," according to James Schroeder, Eastern Washington program director for The Nature Conservancy.
Approximately 30 million trees are harvested annually for Christmas, out of the 350-500 million growing on tree farms across the country. As each year's trees are harvested for sale, there are more than ten times as many left standing. A tradition of buying real trees keeps tree farms in business – and their lands covered in forest.
Conversely, about 10 million artificial trees are purchased each year; 90 percent are shipped to the U.S. from China. Artificial trees are not recyclable. In fact, most are made from a kind of plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is derived from petroleum.
Want to make your already green choice even greener?
- Visit a cut-your-own tree farm instead of purchasing a pre-cut tree. That way, you'll know for certain that it wasn't shipped in from outside your home state.
- Use LED lights—they'll use as little as 10 percent of the electricity and last for years.
- Pass up the non-recyclable tinsel and make garland out of popcorn and/or cranberries. Keep using heirloom ornaments year after year, but if you're still looking to fill some space on the tree, you don't have to go the store-bought route. Try turning holiday cards or your child's artwork into ornaments. Or go for a walk to collect pine cones or seashells and decorate with glue and glitter.
- If you are planning to purchase ornaments, choose wooden ones over plastic. When you travel during the year, pick up a painted wood ornament from the destination you visit. Soon you'll have a collection of ornaments that brings back memories of trips with friends and family.
- Recycle your Christmas tree whenever possible. Many areas now offer a post-Christmas curbside pickup, and the trees are typically chipped or ground to use in mulch. Look for information specific to your area in your local newspaper.
Photo by Taryn Zier.