Try this if you’re looking for something else to talk about this year at your family holiday get-together other than politics. What is more sustainable, a real or fake Christmas tree? This year more than any other year, you will be able to strike up a spirited conversation. While immediately evident to many, the answer is much more complicated than it sounds. There are many contributing factors to the correct answer, often depending on circumstances. Below are factors to consider when you make your choice.
Real Christmas Tree
According to the National Christmas Tree Association (I bet you didn’t know there was one of those), 25 -30 million real Christmas trees are sold each Christmas. The large majority of Christmas trees are grown on around 15,000 farms across the U.S. These farms employ approximately 100,000 people. These trees grow in almost every state, so the concept of farm to living room for your tree can work. These trees can be chipped into mulch after Christmas and used to feed other plants. Some live trees are used in the home and replanted in yards after Christmas. This gets tricky due to temperature differences so check this article out if you decide to try this.
Most likely, you will drive to purchase your tree, and you will have to dispose of the tree as well and repeat this each year. In addition, real trees are more expensive than artificial trees over time and pose a fire hazard.
Artificial Christmas Tree
The ease of buying an artificial tree today is very enticing. They even come pre-lit with LED lights that change color with the click of a button. For any Dad who has spent a Christmas day putting together an adjustable basketball system, pre-lit sounds fantastic. You can purchase these on Amazon; many are eligible for Prime shipping. No driving, use the same tree year after year. What more could you ask for? They can easily be stored and used year after year. Plus, you will not have to pick up dried pine needles from the floor every day.
Artificial trees are a great choice until you need to dispose of them. Then, like plastic bottles, they remain in landfills for a long time. Often these trees are not made in the United States, and shipping them from other countries is an enormous environmental cost.
So what’s the answer?
The real tree comes out on top. Most experts agree you will have to keep your artificial tree for more than 18 years to overcome the carbon footprint issues of transportation and eventual disposal. That is a long commitment, and it is hard to imagine we would take care of the trees that long. Because the real tree can be reused immediately for mulch makes, this is the better choice. You can improve on this by purchasing your tree from a local farm or making sure it was grown in your state. Be sure to dispose of it at a facility that makes mulch, and you can have a guilt free Christmas when it comes to your tree. If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing or follow me on Twitter @H2oTrends.
I’ll add another “more sustainable” option, especially for those in western states: venture to the forest and cut your own tree! In Nevada, where I live, the forest is growing and encroaching on what once were fields and meadows. As trees grow they outcompete grasses and shrubs for light, water and nutrients. These same grasses and shrubs are what wildlife eat to survive – and when the forage fails, wildlife fail. The BLM in Nevada clears large areas of this encroaching forest regularly in order to promote forage for wildlife. This practice creates an opportunity for a active, outdoors oriented people to venture out to the hills and cut a fresh tree (by the way, these fresh cut trees don’t dry out in my experience). As an added bonus, you get some exercise and get to enjoy the great outdoors. Check with your local BLM – they can provide details and maps of where they encourage this.
Couldn’t agree more. A real trees also release oxygen during its lifecycle, gives emloyment to hundreds of thousandsin USA,unlike the plastic one which is outsourced from communist China.
Merry Christmas guys. Make a real choice.