Which is greener?

Oh Christmas tree, oh green Christmas tree?
By Trystan L. Bass

Nothing says "Christmas" like the smell of pine in your living room on a winter morning! But is that smell really "green" or is it bad for the planet? Is it more environmentally responsible to buy a fake tree and use it year after year? What about keeping a live tree for Christmas? Let’s look at the options one by one.

XmasTree

If you want a tree for the holiday, the experts at Grist and TreeHugger say it’s actually better to buy a cut real Christmas tree than an artificial tree.

Why? In a word, plastics. Fake trees are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Producing this type of plastic creates a lot of pollution, and PVC is difficult to recycle.

Plus, lead has been found in PVC. According to a report (PDF) in the Journal of Environmental Health, lead levels are higher in older artificial trees. You’ve probably heard about lead in children’s toys, so just imagine the kiddos hanging around lead-tainted branches of your fake Christmas tree. Not a merry scene.

Farmed Christmas trees are ultimately a renewable resource. Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide, and after the holidays, the trees can be recycled into mulch. Check Earth 911 to see where to take your dead tree after the 25th.

What about a live tree? This is often promoted as the ultimate eco-friendly holiday option. Well, it’s not that simple. First, you have to live in the right climate to plant a tree after Christmas. If the ground is frozen outside, you can’t do it.

Then, you can only keep a live tree indoors for a few days, either 4 to 10, depending on the type of tree. You can’t have this tree up after Thanksgiving and around till New Years, or you’ll kill it.

Some types of live trees can be kept outside in containers for a year or two. Others grow fast and must be planted in the ground sooner. Either way, this isn’t a long-term solution to your Christmas decorations — what do you do the following year? Pretty soon, the tree won’t fit in the house.

Also, you must carefully consider how much space you have in your yard to plant trees. Remember, these trees may grow up to 60-feet tall.

So, the most practical solution for earth-friendly folks who celebrate Christmas is to look for a locally grown tree. Ask if the farm uses integrated pest management instead of tons of chemicals.

If you can, find a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm. It’s good family fun too.

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