Is a real Christmas tree better for the Earth?

We’ve been debating heavily in the newsroom recently about Christmas trees. Do you buy a real one each year, or do you lug out the fake out from the attic or basement? People (including me) are opinionated on the matter, whether it be for nostalgia, tradition, allergies, cost or ease of assembly.

But what’s the greener option? On the one hand, fake trees can be used year after year without an increasing need for resources. But real-tree advocates argue that artificial greens are industrial products that harbor chemicals including lead. They also counter that real trees can be recycled into mulch after the season’s end, whereas fake trees will likely end up in a landfill at the end of their lifespan.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am a real-tree fanatic. It’s mostly for nostalgia’s purposes, but I love rummaging through the trees at a stand or walking down aisles of Frasier firs to find the perfect one (and then looking at it when we get it home and realizing, no, it’s entirely lopsided). Plus, the smell can’t be faked.

But Huffington Post writer Richard Schiffman offered an unusual solution: Instead of arguing over buying a fake tree or cutting down a real one, maybe we should be planting a tree. Schiffman turns the attention away from live Christmas trees (which mostly get their inventory from tree farms these days) and toward the international problem of deforestation.

Marc Ian Barasch, founder of the Green World Campaign and fellow HuffPost contributor, explains that replanting forests does a handful of good things for the environment — and the people who live in it.

“Trees restore degraded soil, increase crops, feed livestock, provide building materials and firewood, restore biodiversity, sustain villages, and bring dormant springs back to life — all the while sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.”

If you’re looking for more of a local impact, there are a handful of farms that sell live trees that can be planted in your yard after the holidays are over. Check out the listing of local tree farms from Smart’s Holiday Countdown. And keep in mind, sometimes when it comes to living green, issues are often shades of gray rather than black and white. There may be a third option you hadn’t thought of before!

Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.

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1 Response

  1. November 19, 2012

    […] Oh, and decorating for the holidays. I’ve mentioned on the countdown that my “decorations” are less than elegant, especially when compared to other homes. I’ve also noted in passing that my tree is a bit lopsided. […]

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