This is our first holiday season as a homeless family. Granted, we are staying with family until our new home is ready, but it’s not quite the same without your own Christmas tree and ornaments. We have always used a fake tree since we’ve been married and my sister and brother-in-law insisted on a real one this year, so with our tree in storage we tagged along with them to Wilcox Tree Farm to do Christmas the old fashion way – cut down our own tree.
At first, I was appalled…all these beautiful trees fillings acres and acres of land and we’re just going to take a saw and cut one down and use it for a short 4 weeks? What kind of environmental impact could this possibly have? Surely using a reusable plastic tree is a better option! But then I got to thinking of all the oils, chemicals, shipping and other toxins that go into making a plastic tree and decided to do a little digging into which holiday option has the lowest environmental impact (without skipping the tree all together, which I’ve always wanted to do but my husband says he draws the line there).
The Artificial Tree
Convenience and ease are the name of the game for pre-light artificial trees and over their lifespan, they actual yield a greater return on monetary investment, especially when considering the reoccurring costs you can accumulate each year when going with a live tree. An artificial tree may run you $80-$300 dollars upfront but can last for many years to come. Plus there is no upkeep with watering daily, cleaning up pine needles and sap and disposing of it at the end of the season.
But, when considering the process of creating and transporting an artificial, it’s hard to ignore and be ok with what goes into the whole thing. Fake trees are created with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. Several known carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are generated during the production of PVC, polluting nearby towns and are leading causes of cancer. In some scary cases, older trees may even contain lead.
Then…artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, all which means the trees will lay in a landfill for centuries after trashing them. And there’s huge amounts of the oil and fuel consumed and carbon emissions released in the transportation of the trees across seas. Almost 85% of fake trees sold in the U.S. are imported from China. None of these things make me all too happy to support artificial trees…yikes!
The Real Tree
It is estimated that almost 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in just in the U.S. every year but that great news about this is 93% of those trees are recycled at the end of the season. There are more than 4,000 available treecycling programs across the nation, which is a leading factor in making this option more environmentally friendly. The tree is reused as mulch for landscaping and gardening, rather than end up in a landfill where it could take hundreds of years to decompose.
Also, the tree farm where we got our tree at this year is made just for that – farming trees. They have it down to a science and as soon as our tree is gone, a new one is taking it’s place – sustainable farming techniques are in place to ensure a healthy supply of trees. However, many may be plagued with the use of herbicides and pesticides so take extra care to locate organically-grown trees. While you do have to take into account the natural resources needed, especially water, live trees help clean and purify our breathing air during it’s life on the farm, absorbing more than 1 ton of CO2 and with hundreds of millions of these trees growing in America, each acre of trees provides enough O2 for 18 people on a daily basis.
And The Winner Is…
While the artificial tree is prime for convenience and ease, my winner is going with a real live tree. I may have had a hard time actually cutting down the tree but I know they are providing natural air purification across the nation, grown with sustainable farming techniques and treecycled into a second life for landscaping and mulch. Plus the smell of real pine at Christmas time is hard to replicate!
Which type of tree do you usually use each year? Have you ever cut down your own tree and had any guilt over it? I’d love to hear about your holiday traditions below!