Utne Blogs > Environment

Real vs. Fake, Christmas Edition

by Danielle Magnuson

 


Tags: Christmas, green living, holidays, tree farming, recycling, PVC, environment, Organic Gardening, Danielle Magnuson,

Cutting down the Christmas tree 

I like to visit the Christmas tree lot when it’s snowing. There will be free hot cider, a small bonfire in the center of the yard, and children running around between the blue spruces and Fraser firs. And happily, a real tree makes for a healthy holiday, according to Organic Gardening.

Christmas tree mulchYou might think one of those horrid artificial trees would be the more environmentally friendly route. After all, you reuse it every year instead of chopping down a living tree each December. But real pine can be mulched, composted, chipped, or fed to birds and animals. Growing up on the farm, we gave our leftover Christmas tree to the goats, who greedily stripped it of every last needle in no time. If you don’t happen to have a goat yard, it’s likely your city collects curbside trees for recycling after the holidays.

In contrast, an artificial tree is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can never be recycled, and eventually ends up in a landfill after you’ve gotten your years of service out of it. A fake tree is used an average of 6 to 10 years before being dumped for a newer model. Speaking of, the longer you have that artificial tree in your home, the more likely it is to be toxic to you and your children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

Artificial Christmas trees made of PVC degrade under normal conditions. About 50 million U.S. households have artificial Christmas trees, of which about 20 million are at least nine years old, the point at which dangerous lead exposures can occur.

And as Organic Gardening points out, Christmas tree farmers are leaders in conservation agriculture. Their product emits healthy oxygen during its 15 or so years of growing, requires little to no supplemental irrigation, and thrives in tough terrain that is otherwise unsuited for agricultural crops. The Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers holds high standards for its tree farmers. (Check out these tips from Utne Reader’s archive for choosing a locally grown, environmentally friendly Christmas tree.)

So if you, too, love listening to holiday tunes while scouring the tree yard for that Charlie Brown gem under lightly falling snowflakes, rest assured that it’s the healthiest yuletide option for your family and the Earth.

Christmas tree compostSource: Organic Gardening 

Images by jumpyjodes, arvindgrover, and cogdogblog, licensed under Creative Commons.