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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

A live Christmas tree or an artificial one-which is less of an environmental burden? This has become the inconvenient holiday conundrum for eco-conscious consumers.

A live Christmas tree or an artificial one–which is less of an environmental burden? This has become the inconvenient holiday conundrum for eco-conscious consumers.

O PVC Christmas Tree

Consumers advocating the use of artificial trees cite many factors supporting their choice, including convenience, cleanliness, fire concerns, perceived value, reusability, and environmental issues.

To support their claim, they cite the fact that Christmas tree farms employ the use of insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Improper use of these products can pose health risks and implications for local water quality, aquatic fauna, and wildlife. Real trees need seven to 10 years of this maintenance before they are harvested.

Proponents of artificial trees cite the fact that by reusing their trees year after year they are saving seven to 10 live trees during the average lifespan of their artificial ones. They’re also saving the fossil fuels burned to transport the natural trees (the vast majority of which are grown in Atlantic Canada) to the local Boy Scout group.

The Real McCoy

The National Christmas Tree Association in the US states that 85 percent of the artificial trees purchased in North America are imported from southeast Asia, raising concerns about the strictness of the environmental regulations employed during their manufacture, as well as the amount of nonrenewable fossil fuels required to get the trees to our shores. To top it off, most of the artificial trees are made from PVC plastic, the production of which emits a number of known carcinogens.

A one-acre live Christmas tree farm can remove up to 13,000 kg (28,660 lb) of airborne pollutants per year and produce enough oxygen for 18 people every day. Contrary to the belief that using artificial trees saves our forests and farmlands, the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association claims that tree farms are most often located on land that would not sustain food crops and at least three seedlings are planted for every harvested tree. Real trees are also composted while artificial ones must go to a landfill.

A study in the late 1990s at the Institute for Air and Environment in Sweden analyzed the life cycle of a natural and an artificial Christmas tree. The results demonstrated that a natural tree, locally grown, is five times more environmentally compatible than an imported plastic tree.

Last Stand

The ultimate tree for enviro-warriors everywhere may be one that comes roots and all. These trees are dug up with their roots intact, put in a pot, brought inside (for one week only), decorated, and then replanted outside before New Year’s.

O, Tannenbaum! Whatever you choose, may your tree’s branches delight you this holiday season.

Tips for a Bright Green Holiday

  • Take reusable bags with you when shopping from your naughty-or-nice list.
  • Give a gift of nature conservancy with adopt-a-tree, save-a-whale, and other programs.
  • Wrap presents in children’s artwork, old maps, or the comics section of the
    newspaper.
  • Use found bits of nature such as pinecones, acorns, and shells for mantle and
    tabletop decorations.
  • Decorate the tree with popcorn and cranberry strands that you can feed to the birds later.
  • Use LED lights, which use 95 percent less energy.
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