The usual Christmas tree debate with a new green twist
Every Christmas, there's discussion about the pros and cons of real and artificial Christmas trees.
Environmental costs of artificial trees include the air pollutants that may be emitted from the factory. Fossil fuels are consumed in their manufacture and delivery, especially if the factory is in China. Artificial trees usually contain PVC, a type of plastic which is hard to recycle. Another item of concern: some artificial trees contain lead.
Real Christmas trees have environmental costs as well. Tree farm runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can degrade water quality, disrupt natural ecosystems, and even endanger wildlife and other life forms. Soil erosion may occur. Fossil fuels are consumed in harvesting the trees, bringing them to market, and in many cases, in disposal. In addition, they can be a fire hazard in the home if they are not properly tended.
Environmentally friendly growing practices
This year, the Christmas tree market will include 200,000 trees grown by members of the Coalition of Environmentally-Conscious Growers. These tree growers have met certain standards in order to join the group and use the label:
To pass muster, a farm must be inspected to ensure that it meets certain standards for managing wetlands, nutrients and pests. Water and soil conservation measures are reviewed, and biodiversity and worker safety are also considered.
Source: Ore. Growers Promote "Green" Xmas Trees, by Sarah Skidmore, AP writer
More tree growers are expected to join the coalition in the future. Many are just waiting to be certified.
This marketing strategy targets consumers who worry about the environment. The "sustainable" practices on these tree farms will indeed be better for the environment. We can hope that, as a result of the coalition, all Christmas tree growers will feel pressured to improve soil and water conservation efforts and practice "greener" chemical use, even if they don't attempt certification.
We got our last real Christmas tree when we lived in Berlin, Germany. It cost about $70, a considerable sum in 1990. We followed all the rules to keep it fresh, but its needles began falling immediately, and it was such a mess that I took it down the day after Christmas.
The next year, we bought a little artificial tree which we used for the next 14 years. I finally advertised it in the newspaper and sold it to a young family who intended to continue using it. I purchased another, slightly larger, artificial tree, and it is now in its 4th year of use.
Most of those years, we put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and didn't take it down until well after New Year's Day.
I don't know how the environmental cost of that little artificial tree compares to 14 real trees, but we did enjoy it for many, many days. A year and a half of total use is a conservative estimate!