DEAR DR. GREEN
Which is more environmentally friendly, a real Christmas tree or an artificial one?
Imitation Christmas trees seem more environmentally friendly. They can be reused, after all, and don’t involve cutting down trees. But the idea that artificial trees are more earth friendly is mainly a myth.
Fake trees, although they can be reused, are mostly made of PVC and polyethylene. Although some claim to be recyclable, most models are not, and end up in the dumpster. Furthermore, 80% of these trees come from factories in China, which greatly increases travel distance and thus carbon footprint. A 2004 study found the many of the older models contain toxic amounts of lead.
Real Christmas trees generally come from tree farms, not forests, so they do not contribute to deforestation. Most cities have in place a tree-recycling program, by which the trees become mulch. Many of the farms are domestic, and production consumes CO2
Between Artificial and cut Christmas trees, the latter is the lesser of two evils. But issues of allergens and pesticides can still deter people from tree lots. For the truly dedicated, potted trees can provide a guilt-free Christmas. Potted trees provide all the benefits of cut trees, with the added benefits of keeping the tree around to continue soaking up CO2. You can pick one up at your local nursery and plant it in your backyard after Christmas. If planting the tree isn’t a feasible solution, many companies are cropping up that will rent out live trees and then collect them after Christmas. For the more artsy among us, making a recycled Christmas tree can show your holiday spirit and your eco-ingenuity.
Happy Holidays and good luck!
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