Cut Down Your Christmas Tree – It helps the environment!

Posted on December 2, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , |

It may seem counter-intuitive (we know), but having a natural Christmas tree in your home will lower your carbon footprint during the holiday season. 

The Nature Conservancy is campaigning for people to use real Christmas trees, not because they’re opposed to artificial trees, but because when you use a natural tree, you’re supporting a stream of other trees down the line. 

Since trees are harvested every 7 to 12 years, farmers need to stagger planting new trees so that each year they have a mature group of trees to cut down for the holiday season.  Fewer than one in 10 farm trees are harvested each year, and for each tree harvested, farmers plant an average of 2-3 trees to replenish the tree used and to keep their farms growing and profitable. 

About 30 million Christmas trees are cut, out of 350 million to 500 million on farms.  The ones that stay provide the benefits.  In addition, most soft woods such pines and furs that are commonly used as Christmas trees can re-sprout and grow new trees from old stumps.  In this way, you can bring your carbon footprint benefit even higher.

Artificial Tree makers, however, disagree.

The American Christmas Tree Association’s website says a study of 6-foot artificial trees compared with real trees indicated the artificial had a smaller carbon footprint.

They say that studies show the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy a fake tree and reuse it for up to 15 years. 

Detractors of natural trees cite multiple reasons for using an artificial tree instead of a natural one:

  1. A real tree drops needles in the house and must be watered to prevent drying out. If not watered properly, they can be a fire hazard.
  2. Natural trees cost a fee each year if bought from a lot
  3. Real trees are usually cut down en masse with tools that consume fossil fuels, further enlarging the carbon footprint from the process

Of course detractors of artificial trees have equally compelling reasons to choose a real tree:

  1. The majority of trees are manufactured and shipped from China (about 85%), so purchasing one does not help U.S. businesses and there is a tremendous fuel cost included in the purchase.
  2. Trees are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a petroleum based product, which is non-renewable. To make them malleable, other chemicals may be used.
  3. Even if you keep your artificial tree for 15 years (or longer!), at some point you’ll have to dispose of it. Since it is not biodegradable, it will remain in the landfill forever. If you try to burn it, dioxins and carcinogens will be released into the atmosphere.

Aside from the debate, the fact that there are far more fun activities inherent in searching for, then finding, and decorating a real tree.  For a family looking to instill tradition in a younger generation, trolling local tree lots for that perfect tree, finding one, and then decorating it can provide memories for years to come for all.

Then there’s the smell of a fresh, natural tree in your living room- something a PVC tree can’t provide.


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