the holiday debate

Artificial trees have grown exponentially over the past years, bringing the question "Which is better for the environment?" An artificial tree that can be used more than once or a real tree that isn't made of toxins and can be recycled?

The Daily Green has a well-timed feature this week on what exactly the greenest Christmas tree is. From most green to least green, here's their list:
Decorating an existing outdoor tree (In my apartment, this might have to mean putting lights on the pumpkin on my patio!)
Making a tree from tree scraps
Live, plantable bulb trees
Local, sustainable or organic trees
Artificial OR conventional live trees (a few extra points if either tree is made in America)

The negative points on conventional live trees are that they must be shipped long distances, which requires lots of fuel for the trucks and pesticides for the trees, and can take up space in landfills if people don't turn them into compost or recycle them somehow. Though, since many live trees are grown on farms, they do not contribute to deforestation.

Artificial trees are primarily made in China of oil-derived PVC. (A merry Christmas indeed!) Many of these have been found to contain lead, and according to another source, the USDA quarantined some Chinese artificial trees for containing a potentially harmful beetle in the center pole. (Though, this makes me think of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and the squirrel that was hiding in the Griswolds' second Christmas tree, that came from the front yard!) Another source I found says that the average family keeps their artificial tree six to nine years before throwing them away to live forever in a landfill. This leads me to think part of the reason people do not keep artificial trees longer is due to the changes in tree features - such as how pre-lit trees are commonplace now. And trees that come with lights built in are assuredly not recyclable.

This year is my first Christmas on my own, and while I should probably consult my roommate, I have already made plans to be a smaller live Christmas tree to put in our living room. I am personally on the side of real trees - they just smell so good and are so classic looking. The people who run the tree farm my family goes to every year are from North Carolina, so I know we buy American frasier fir trees, plus we support a family over a large corporation. Artificial trees rarely come shorter than seven feet, and I would like something on a smaller scale than that. So the weekend after Thanksgiving, it'll be on to find MY very first tree. (The fact that I've already bought a star, lights and ornaments for it is neither here nor there!)

Plus, living in south Louisiana means it's a common practice every January for the yard waste company to pick up all real Christmas trees and deliver them to the eroding wetlands, so really, the trees get to have a use all year long in saving our coastline. I would rather that than having to throw out a non-recyclable artificial tree if it wasn't able to be used any more. I successfully convinced my father last year to buy a real tree when he wanted to go artificial. However, I do have a small artificial tree, that looks like the Charlie Brown tree's older brother, that I've put up in my bedroom for about 13 years now. I quite enjoy it, though I'm not looking forward to when it finally gives out on me, and I'll have to dispose of it.

Now, my next step is to find an environmentally friendly tree skirt... but that's another post for another day.

What are your ideas to make Christmas trees as green as possible?

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