Last month, I did a little research to find out if I was breaking any “green laws” with my yearly real Christmas tree. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I discovered that many environmentalists are pro-real Christmas trees over artificial trees. Why is it considered more environmentally friendly to cut down trees than have an artificial tree that can be used year after year?
- Most Christmas trees are grown on tree farms – they are considered an agricultural product. They are sustainable, and for each tree that is cut, at least one more tree is planted.
- Tree farms are usually planted on soil that doesn’t support other types of agriculture.
In the US there are about 1 million acres dedicated to tree farming. Each acre provides enough oxygen for 18 people.
- Tree farms reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and help counter-balance this global warming thing we keep hearing about.
- Real trees are easily recycled. Many communities offer curbside pick up in the weeks following Christmas and turn the trees into mulch.
- Every state in the U.S. grows Christmas trees. It is possible to get a tree that is locally grown.
- Unless you’re allergic to them, real Christmas trees are better for your family’s health once they are inside the home. Fake Christmas trees contain PVC. “According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, the manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemical known. Released into air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions and impairing children’s development.” (source – christmastree.org).
- Fake Christmas trees are not recyclable and will sit for hundreds of years in a landfill leaching PVC, lead and other contaminants into the soil.
This was enough to convince me that a real tree is the way to go, but this year, I’m going to make sure that our Christmas tree is local. In years past, we’ve gone the convenient route of running to the local big box home improvement store’s gardening department for our tree. The store may be in our town, but the trees sold in them aren’t always local. They could be shipped from anywhere in the country. A tree shipped from far away means a big carbon footprint for our Christmas tree.
So, how can you make sure your tree is local? I see two ways.
- Ask. If you are going to a tree lot, ask where the trees originated. If you’re comfortable with the miles they have traveled, go ahead and buy from the tree lot.
- Buy directly from a local tree farm. I found two convenient resources for finding tree farms throughout the U.S. Both Gardens.com and Christmas Tree Farm Network allow you to search by state for local tree farms.
If you do go the route of buying a real tree, make sure that you dispose of it properly. If your community doesn’t offer a curbside pick-up that will take the tree to be turned into mulch or compost, go to National Christmas Tree Association to find out where you can take it.