Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees & the Environment
Who is planning to deck the halls this weekend?
You might be wondering what the most eco-friendly solution is in terms of buying a Christmas tree. Is buying a real Christmas tree bad for the environment? Or what about the fake ones? What are your options to keep your Christmas tree, well, green?
One major concern with the fake trees is that you're replacing that lovely pine scent with the not-so-lovely scent of PVC. (Blech!) Fake Christmas trees can also often contain lead. Healthy Child Healthy World says that as fake Christmas trees age, they release lead dust. Many fake Christmas trees come from China and they exceed U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations for lead levels in products. Even if you don't buy these plastic Christmas trees, be aware of your kids playing under the fake pink Christmas tree at Aunt Ethel's, because there could be lead dust beneath it.
Fake plastic Christmas trees are very difficult to dispose of. Plastic does not decompose, so once you are done with your fake tree, it just sits there in and landfill indefinitely. They are generally not recyclable, either.
As for real Christmas trees, a concern is that they might be grown with pesticides. Smithsonian Magazine has recommended buying Christmas trees from farms that use integrated pest management (IHP). IHP is a biological pest control as opposed to chemical. (i.e. using ladybugs to kill aphids instead of chemicals)
In spite of this, environmentalists agree that real Christmas trees are the best option from an environmental standpoint. Besides the fact that there's no PVC or lead dust releasing, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and and emit oxygen.
Christmas tree farms are also set up for the sole purpose of growing Christmas trees, so you will not be depleting a forest by purchasing one. You can find local organic Christmas trees by looking up farms using your zip code at Local Harvest. You'd be surprised by how many options there are!
You can make the most of your real Christmas tree, too:
- Buy the type you can replant. This isn't always an option, however, if you don't have a place to plant it. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that you can't just plant it whenever you want. You should only have the tree inside for about a week, because the tree which was otherwise dormant will start to grow inside because your house will be warmer than the outside. We made the mistake of not heeding this advice, and we wound up with a poor little dead pine tree in our yard.
- Turn the Christmas tree into mulch.
- Compost! If you are an apartment dweller and can't compost it yourself, inquire about your municipality's composting options.
- Still can't figure out what to do with your Christmas tree after the holidays? Look up where to dispose of your Christmas tree on Earth911.com.
** Originally posted on 11/9/09. Updated on 11/29/12.