The Impact of Using Live Christmas Trees on the Environment
written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 12/15/2008
You’ve probably heard some people suggest using live Christmas trees as the centerpiece of your holiday decorations is bad for the environment.
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You’ve probably heard some people suggest using live Christmas trees as the centerpiece of your holiday decorations is bad for the environment. After all, you are cutting down a living part of the environment, bringing it into your home, and decorating it for a few weeks before discarding it then repeating the whole process again next year. What may surprise you, however, is that going real is actually the best way to “go green" this holiday.
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Farm Raised Firs
One of the misconceptions about the living Christmas trees is they are chopped down from naturally occurring growth areas leaving behind only stumps and a few needles. The reality is that almost all of the trees available for purchase today were raised in Christmas tree farms. As the name suggests, these are designated areas were the trees are grown, cut down, and re-grown repeatedly. That means you’re not robbing nature of one of its trees when you choose a living fir for your home.
Of course, some might complain that these farms harm the environment but that also does not seem to be the case. Concern about the impact of these farms on surface water in North Carolina where many are located prompted several studies by the EPA. The conclusions were that macroinvertebrates – living creatures which are an indication of stream health – showed no reduction in the quality of the water in those areas.
Plus, Christmas tree farms help the environment because they provide much needed refuge for wild animals whose natural habitats are being destroyed by developers. The farms, therefore, are able to serve both commercial and environmental needs.
While the above points already seemed to make a strong argument for using live Christmas trees, there are a few others to consider as well. For one, these farms actually help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the environment by polluters. They absorb the chemical to assist in the photosynthesis process and because of the large number of trees in each farm they absorb a lot.
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What about Fake Trees?
One reason why people believe fake Christmas trees are a “greener" choice is because they can be reused. However, most people only reuse the same tree for a few years before choosing a new one. What happens to the old one? While they could be donated to families who can’t afford their own trees, most people toss them in the garbage. They end up sitting in landfills for decades. Even if you would want to recycle them, you couldn’t because they are not made from recyclable products.
Furthermore, most of these fake trees are made from a chemical known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The chemical is made from petroleum so if you don’t like the oil industry this is not a product you’d want to purchase. Also, the factories making the trees and using this PVC are polluting the environment with several types of well-known carcinogens. Plus, more of the trees are now being made in China where environmental restrictions are reduced. Some of these trees may even be contaminated by lead which could be dangerous to your children.