Here it is the week after Thanksgiving and many of you may be Christmas tree shopping. Because of that, I always find it important to declare the importance of buying a live tree.

Here it is the week after Thanksgiving and many of you may be Christmas tree shopping. Because of that, I always find it important to declare the importance of buying a live tree. A friend of mine once proclaimed to me she was no longer going to purchase a live cut Christmas tree, but instead invest in an artificial tree. “Why,” I asked. “Well, you know, because it’s the Green thing to do rather than cut down a tree,” she said, surprised I would ask.

Actually, one of the best things you can do during this season is to purchase a live Christmas tree. Christmas trees are planted and grown just to be harvested for Christmas. That is their whole purpose in life.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, it’s estimated that at any time there are about 25 million to 30 million live Christmas trees sold in the United States every year. On top of that there are nearly “… 350 million Real Christmas Trees growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.” Contrary to popular belief, they are not cut out of the wild. While these trees are doing all of this growing several things are going on that are good for the environment and good for the economy.

Environmental: First, Christmas tree farms take up space, often on the outskirts of town, putting land into useful production which is often threatened by urbanization and development. Secondly, tree farms support complex ecosystems including providing wonderful habitats for wildlife. While these trees are growing, foxes, raccoons, opossums and all kinds of critters find a place to live and raise their families. Christmas trees themselves are the perfect places for nesting birds. I always think it is good luck if I find a Christmas tree with a bird nest. Today, our wild places, and therefore our wildlife, are dwindling compared to 50, or even 25 years ago.

Christmas tree farms also boost the local economy by providing jobs to people who help keep the trees trimmed and the grass mowed and provide general management for the area.

The other live alternative: If you have a yard, another alternative is to buy a Christmas tree in a pot, or wrapped, that you can plant after Christmas. We did this when I was growing up and have done it at our house. It is a really fun way to enjoy Christmas and provide landscaping for your yard, too! There are certain restrictions (like how long you can have it indoors) so study up on it a bit first.

Disposal: Live cut Christmas trees can be recycled at many neighborhood recycling sites where they are ground into wood chips for trail use, used in ponds and lakes for fish habitat and will naturally decompose. Live cut trees are 100 percent biodegradable; when decomposing, carbon (good carbon), nitrogen, and other elements are released into the soil.

Truth about fake trees: Eighty-five percent of artificial trees are made in China. Wow! Think of all of the energy used for all of that transportation. Obviously, all artificial trees are factory-made consuming natural products in the process, and are made from plastics and metals. Artificial trees are largely made from PVC. Lead is used in the process of making PVC and petroleum is a byproduct of making plastic. So much for reducing the carbon footprint on this item. During the manufacturing process of PVC, dioxins are created and dispersed. Dioxins are the most toxic man-made chemical known.

Disposal: Artificial trees can only be disposed in a landfill. In a landfill, the dioxins found in artificial trees are released into the water where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals, including us, which are a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging our immune system, and impairing our children’s development.

There are some people who may be allergic to pine, or have gotten to the point where they simply cannot go out any longer and harvest a live tree or purchase one at the corner tree lot. I understand. For them, the artificial tree is the only way they will be able to enjoy a Christmas tree. I only ask that when you’re finished with an artificial tree, please, please don’t throw it away. Donate it to the local thrift store, church, school, or other business so that its use can be continued.

There are many choices in life, and when it comes to GREEN this one is a no-brainer to me.

Happy tree hunting.

Déjà vu? - This article may look familiar to you - I reprint this column annually as I find the subject so important. I hope the scent of a real, green Christmas tree will soon be filling your home!