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December 7, 2013

Which Are Better for the Environment—Real or Fake Christmas Trees? ~ Heather Grimes

I bought a fake Christmas tree last year because I thought that cutting down real trees was bad for the environment.

Not so.

According to Gary Chastagner, Professor of Plant Pathology at Washington State University, “Most Christmas trees are grown as crop and replanted, so it is really no different than harvesting corn. There is natural reseeding of trees in forests and permits are given out to cut down Christmas trees in areas that need to be thinned.”

The National Christmas Tree Association also stresses how the use of real Christmas trees is actually better for the environment than fake trees. According to research, most fake trees are only used six to nine years before they’re disposed. Even if you would use one for 20 years or more, it will eventually be thrown away and end up in a landfill, unlike real trees, which are biodegradable and recyclable.

As I read more about fake trees, I came upon news that is even more startling. As noted in the Washington Post, fake trees are made “on the concrete floors of Zhang’s Shuitou Company factory, migrant workers, most earning about $100 a month, squat in front of hissing machinery as they melt chips into moldable plastic.” Most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Also—it just gets worse—most artificial Christmas trees are made of metals and plastics. The plastic material, typically PVC, can be a potential source of hazardous lead.

Oh dear.

Ok, now that we’ve established that buying a fake tree a bad idea, there are a few more details that prove buying a real Christmas tree actually benefits the environment!

  • While they’re growing, real Christmas trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen. The farms that grow Christmas trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. See what the experts say about Real Christmas Trees.
  • Real Christmas trees are renewable. They are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop. To ensure a constant supply, Christmas tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree they harvest. On the other hand, artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses an artificial tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.
  • Real Christmas trees are recyclable and biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes. Learn about the many ways that real Christmas trees are being recycled and reused in communities nationwide.
  • Real Christmas trees help preserve green spaces. Real Christmas trees are often grown on soil that does not support other crops. Learn more about the National Christmas Tree Association’s support of Project Evergreen.

In summary, my logic—in its earnest attempt at being green with a fake tree— was totally flawed.

The question now is what to do with my already-decorated and bedazzled fake Christmas tree…?

Sources:

The National Christmas Tree Association

Washington State University, Research News and Features:  Environment

USA Today

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas, by Anna Getty

Washington Post

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

(For photo credit and for more photos of unusual, resourceful and hilarious Christmas Trees, click here.)

 

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