OK, aside from the fact that that was a really corny title (the other option was a sappy title…get it – sappy?), I really do love to have a real Christmas tree. Nothing says Christmas like a pine needle stuck in your toe.
OK, I’ll branch out a little…
I’ll bark out some facts at you…
I’ll focus on the trunk of the issue…that was a stretch – I admit it – I’ll stop…
Can anyone out there make a pun out of the word “tannenbaum?”
This post isn’t really about my horrible jokes; it is about having a real Christmas tree, versus having an artificial one. I could go on and on about the smell and the tradition and all of that, but what I am really interested in, and what you may be too, is which is the better choice for the environment?
But first, the fun stuff!
We have bought real, farmed trees from local stores for the past few years, but a bout of nostalgia for chopping down trees with my Dad and my siblings made me want to go and trek through calf-deep snow for my own wild tree.
A friend of mine picked us up a Christmas tree cutting permit for the hefty fee of $5 for three trees. Colin and I rounded up his sister and her fiancé and made an afternoon of it!
We took a half hour drive out to our permit area, eyes peeled along the road for “the spot.” The first “spot” was pretty dismal, so we shook off the snow and piled back in the truck for better luck. And then the sun started to drop.
At spot # 2, we noticed a couple of possible winners, but kept on trekking for that perfect tree. And then, there she was – my tree! Colin’s sister’s was close by and that’s when we realized we had no saw…
HA! No, we totally had a saw; there was no way we were pulling a “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Moment.”
So my big strong man sawed down the trees, then we dragged them to the truck – but not before some obligatory photos! And all 15 minutes before the sun sank into the hills.
Note: If you are tree hunting, bring a sister-in-law who packs hot chocolate and sandwiches.
Also – trees in the wild aren’t perfect – so don’t expect that; just enjoy being out in nature with friends, family, and a hacksaw. Give yourselves lots of time – the hunt for your family’s tree is all part of the fun!
So without further ado – the facts:
The Fake Tree:
- The biggest issue with artificial Christmas trees is that they are typically made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is a non-renewable oil-based plastic that emits many greenhouse gasses during production. It has been estimated that the energy used to make one fake tree would require that it be used for two decades before it could match the carbon footprint of a farmed (real) tree.
- To add to the PVC nightmare, fake trees can continue to release trace gasses into the air over time.
- Now you want pre-lit? Or that new brand that looks so…real…your tree will be added to a landfill, incapable of biodegrading, thanks to that PVC.
- Many artificial trees are produced overseas, adding travel emissions to their environmental impact.
- The money you spend on a fake tree goes to the large multinational company who made it.
The Real Tree:
- Real trees, as we know, absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. This actually helps prevent the “greenhouse effect” of global warming. One acre of live Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people.
- Christmas tree farms and wilderness areas stabilize the soil, provide living areas for wildlife and create scenic greenbelts.
- Contrary to what has been argued before, Christmas tree farms do not need a lot of fertilizers or other chemicals to grow, and are often grown in soil that cannot support other crops. Wild trees don’t need any chemicals at all!
- When you buy from a local tree farm, you are supporting your local economy. When you purchase a tree permit, that money goes back into sustainable resource development for your region (check with your local forestry office, this may differ in other areas).
I think the winner is pretty clear, and there are a lot of articles out there that support this.
But maybe you already own a fake tree, or your landlord doesn’t allow real ones. I suggest you make sure your tree doesn’t contain lead (some older ones or really cheap ones do). This can actually flake off and sit on presents, carpet etc.
If you don’t want your fake tree anymore, donate it instead of throwing it out. Or hold onto your tree for a long time (that two decades?), instead of upgrading every 3-5 years.
If you chop down a tree in the wild like we did, make sure to get a permit from your local forestry office. This way you are cutting in an area that has been designated to have ample tree growth, and may even have re-planting practices in place.
And if you just can’t bear the thought of a fake tree, but don’t want to cut one, buy a nice potted evergreen, and plant it outside in the spring (or right away if your ground isn’t frozen). My Grandpa and Grandma used to do this every year and had a lovely collection of evergreens in their front yard. I had no idea Grandpa was such an eco-pioneer!
This article was written by Aubrey