A friend once proclaimed 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 this season is purchase a live-cut Christmas tree. Christmas trees are grown just to be harvested for Christmas. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly 30 million Christmas trees are sold each year in the U.S. They are not cut out of the wild.
Several things good for the environment and the economy happen while the trees are growing. First, Christmas tree farms put land – often threatened by urbanization and development – into useful production. Second, tree farms support complex ecosystems, including providing wonderful habitats for wildlife. 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’s good luck if I find a Christmas tree with a bird nest.
Christmas tree farms also boost the local economy by providing jobs to people who help keep the trees trimmed, the grass mowed, and provide general management for the area.
Some people have proclaimed that live cut trees have chemical residues. Scientists have tested cut trees and have not found any significant levels of chemicals. 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, releasing carbon, nitrogen and other elements are released into the soil.
Eighty-five percent of artificial trees are made in China. Wow. Think of all of the energy used for all of that transportation. Artificial trees are largely made from PVC. 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.
Artificial trees can only be disposed in a landfill. In a landfill, the dioxins are released into the water, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals, including us, which is a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging our immune system, and impairing our children’s development.
Some people may be allergic to pine or have gotten to the point where they simply can’t go out any longer and harvest a live tree or purchase one at the corner tree lot. I understand. For them, the artificial tree may be the only way they’ll be able to enjoy a Christmas tree. However, there are alternatives to disposing an artificial tree other than the landfill. Donate it to the local thrift store, church, school, nursing home, or other business that can continue to use it.
Page 2 of 2 - You may have happy memories of driving to the country with your family, choosing your tree and cutting it down, the scent of pine filling the air. You may remember going to the tree lot, running between the rows, having someone holding up the tree so you could all admire it, and picking out which tree would take the ride home with you. Or you may go to your basement or attic and dust off the artificial tree and let it disperse dioxins into your air as you sing carols around it. Which family tradition will you have with your family?
To support a local tree farm near Independence, visit the Fort Osage Christmas Trees, www.fortosagechristmastrees.com.
This article may look familiar to you. I wrote this article a few years ago and have had it printed previously. I find the subject so important that I re-run it every year.
Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.