As the holidays approach and EBN and I start thinking about putting up a Christmas Tree we always have the same fake versus real Christmas tree debate. I am all about the real tree. I love going down to the local tree lot to pick the best looking one I can find. I also enjoy the lovely scent of pine that fills our house. EBN thinks real trees are a messy fire hazard that leave us vacuuming pine needles well into the new year.
So to put this argument to rest I thought I would put my mad librarian skills to use and determine which option is best, real or fake Christmas trees. At first glance, fake Christmas trees offer a more economical option which can be used to celebrate more that a single holiday season. Along a similar line of thought trekking out into the bush to chop down a tree to wastefully display in your house for a few short weeks sounds like environmental devastation. Despite this initial train of thought it appears that getting a real Christmas tree may be the greener option (yay!!!).
Image Credit: Yvonne Eijkenduijn
What’s In a Tree?
Fake Christmas trees are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a petroleum based plastic resulting in the emission of a number of carcinogens including dioxin, ethylene, dichloride and vinyl chloride (Crandell 2007). In addition to PVC, Fake Christmas trees often contain lead, a dangerous substance known to cause a host of serious health problems in laboratory testing.
In contrast, you already know what a real tree is made of. Although real Christmas trees do not contain lead or PVC, it is important to note that some tree farms make use of pesticides and fertilizers to help speed up tree growth. If you want a chemical free tree you may have to do additional research and talk directly to the vendors.
Unlike real Christmas trees, fake trees have no second life. Once they are finished they wind up in the land-fill where they stay – not breaking down or decomposing. In contrast, many municipalities recycle real Christmas trees, turning them into mulch that can be reused in gardening and landscaping.
The Road Less Traveled
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 85% of fake trees are manufactured in China. This means that artificial trees must be transported over long distances to reach your home. Because these trees are manufactured in China, you have little knowledge about factory safety conditions or the fair treatment of workers.
In contrast, buying a real Christmas tree means keeping your hard earned dollars within the local community. According Mike Bondi of the Oregon State University Extension Service “Jobs in the Christmas tree industry have a huge impact on local economies. We produce the trees here in the local community; no factories or overseas imports. The industry employs hundreds of seasonal workers and full-time employees.”
The Third Option
While buying a real tree may be the “greener” of the two options many note there is a third option which is the most green of all. Some people choose not to buy a tree at all. They suggest decorating a houseplant or creating your own tree as a craft project. Having been raised on real Christmas trees and being a sucker for tradition, this just does not work for me. So I will stick with the less of two evils and buy a real Christmas tree from a local grower.