Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Christmas Tree Debate: to go real or not?

our Christmas tree - a real tree for the first time in a long time!
Is anybody out there confused about whether live trees are eco-friendly or not? I have personally struggled with this question for years. A number of years ago, we purchased a plastic tree (ick) because we thought it was 'greener' than buying a cut tree. Now my perspective has changed and I think the most ecologically friendly thing to do is to purchase a real, organic tree (preferably live, but cut is OK as well), that hopefully is sold to benefit a non-profit organization. Here are a few things to consider:

1. plastic is bad, bad, bad. before deciding on buying an artificial tree, remember that most fake trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (aka PVC), which contains harmful chemicals. Also, plastic trees are non bio-degradable, and will eventually end up in the land-fill. Hmm.
these will eventually end up in the landfill....
2. plastic trees are unsustainable. Plastic trees are primarily made from oil, a non-renewable resource. When you look at a plastic tree, think of the extracted fossil fuels used to make it - the tree is merely a transformed version of these non-renewable resources. A few more things to think about:
  • Most plastic trees are manufactured in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, which have less stringent environmental regulations, poorer working conditions, and lower wages.
  • Most manufactured trees will travel thousands of miles before reaching the US, thereby creating a large carbon footprint from the 'grey energy' required to ship these products to us.
transporting fake trees requires fossil fuel and creates pollution
  • Energy from fossil fuel is required for manufacturing. Burning fossil fuel causes environmental damage.
  • Buying products manufactured outside the US does not support our economy.
3. i think cutting trees is 'greener' than creating plastic trees. here's why:
  • Because they are very hardy, Christmas trees are often planted where few other plants grow. Therefore, thousands of acres of land is being farmed that would otherwise not be farmed.
  • Trees are a wildlife habitat. If you can buy your tree from a grower that cuts only a portion of each area per year, you can ensure that the wildlife habitat is preserved.
  • Trees consume CO2 and create oxygen throughout their lifetime. Each acre of Christmas trees grown provides daily oxygen for 18 people. Additionally, trees remove up to 13,000 kg of airborne pollutants per acre per year.
  • Organic trees create a sustainable income for growers. Because organic tree farmers are able to make a living by selling us their trees, they can maintain their farmland as a farm. without demand for cut trees, they might sell their land to a developer.
  • Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and recycable.
If you chose to go with a real Christmas tree like we have, stay tuned for tomorrow's post on how to be as sustainable as possible.

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