About the Tree

Like a Partridge, many of us believe that a big part of our holiday celebrations require a tree–certainly not a “Pear Tree,” but a tree nonetheless.

But, what is a “green” tree?

There is no simple answer and there is an ongoing debate about which is better – a fake or real Christmas tree.

So, I looked to the experts at Grist and TreeHugger for a decision.  Both think that a real tree is the best option.

Why?  Well let’s look at artificial trees.  You’d think that an artificial tree would be the greener option because no real tree is being sacrificed and the artificial tree will be used year after year. No, say the experts.  Artificial trees are generally made of petroleum based plastic, usually PVC.  Even worse, lead is apparently used to stabilize certain PVC products.  Not what I would want the kids, or in my case pets, playing around for a month or so.

Since most Christmas lot trees are now grown on tree farms, some argue that it doesn’t really hurt the forests when they are cut down because they are generally replanted.  As a matter of fact, an estimated 40 million to 45 million trees were planted in 2008 in North America, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. While they are growing, trees in the tree farms provide habitat for wildlife, remove dust and pollen from the air and absorb carbon dioxide. Plus they smell good.

And the “real tree” advocates also argue in favor of fresh trees because artificial ones must travel great distances – often from China – to get into the stores.   Of course, one of the downsides of a real tree is what is done with it after the season – trees in landfills are not terribly “green”.

So, if you decide that you are going to be one of the 33 million North Americans that will have a real Christmas tree in your home this year, recycle it at the end of the season, rather than throwing it in the trash. By recycling your fresh Christmas tree, you can reduce the amount of waste going to your local landfill. Recycled trees are often turned into wood chips and/or mulch that local county park landscapers and homeowners can use around their existing yard plants. Many local cities are now offering tree recycling pick-up for free. Just contact your local recycling center for instructions and pick-up dates in your area.