Flying Fish

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, Are you in Fact Green?
by Nicole Carlozo -- December 13th, 2012

Trees come in all shapes, sizes, and forms during the Holiday season. But how’s a girl suppose to celebrate when suffering from Christmas Tree Guilt?

Showing off my little tree and my little kitten.

Thanksgiving came and went, and I proudly marched out and bought myself an apartment-sized Christmas tree. After setting it up, however, I found myself wondering about the origins of my tree. Was I right in buying this tiny tree? I labeled my crisis “Christmas Tree Guilt,” or CTG, if you prefer.

From my CTG onset ensued an extensive online search. It turns out I’m not the only one thinking about Christmas tree sustainability!

Most of the discussion revolves around the “natural tree vs. plastic tree” debate. In my opinion, why have a tree if it doesn’t come with that fresh pine scent?

I admit that my preference doesn’t mean a thing to anyone but me. Beyond the preference argument, here are a few justifications for skipping the plastic tree, or “keeping it real.”

1. Less Waste. Real trees represent a renewable resource, since tree farms plant 1 to 3 seedlings for every tree that is sold. Plastic trees, on the other hand, are usually discarded after 6 – 9 years. Meanwhile, overseas companies continually produce a product that will ultimately end up in landfills.

2. Biodegradable. Many artificial trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This non-biodegradable plastic sits permanently in landfills, while real trees can be returned to nature (serving as habitat) or recycled. For example, many counties pick up and convert Christmas trees into mulch.

3. Environmental Benefits. It’s nice to think about the clean air and water derived from tree farms, as well as the cozy habitats created for wildlife. Of course, these benefits are cut short when a tree is, well…cut. But, the essence of a farm is production. More seedlings are always being planted to replace sold product.

4. Carbon Footprint. Most of the fake trees found in the US are made (you guessed it) in China. Meanwhile, local tree farms sequester carbon as seedlings grow.

5. Supporting your Local Economy. When you buy a real bonafide Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, or White Pine, you are supporting local businesses. Freshly cut trees can’t travel very far, so it’s certain that your purchase is local.

I can now look at my tree without succumbing to CTG. How about you?

3 Comments

  1. Susan Shingledecker
    Dec 13, 2012

    Enjoyed this. Since we usually travel to spend Christmas with relatives, having a live tree is a challenge. With little kids though no tree an home isn’t an option. 5 years ago I found an artificial tree on Freecycle. Someone was getting rid of theirs to upgrade to a pre-lit tree. So we saved this one from the landfill for now and are giving her a few more Christmases. It’s possible all the needles will fall off and then we can just recycle the metal. Yes needles even fall off artificial trees! At least old ones!

  2. Nicole Carlozo
    Dec 14, 2012

    Hi Susan, I think it’s fantastic that you rescued a tree from Freecycle. Another great option, especially with all of the artificial trees already floating around out there! And I can’t help but laugh at the image of an artificial tree without needles. Who would have thought?

  3. Al Ferguson
    Dec 18, 2012

    Need ideas for a nice movie for our grandparents this Christmas

Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
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