We’ve just rolled into December and you may be pondering over a live tree vs. an artificial one. It always makes me muse at a time when a friend of mine once proclaimed that she was not going to purchase a live Christmas tree, but instead buy an artificial tree.

“Why,” I asked.

“Well, you know, because it’s the ‘green’ thing to do,” she said, surprised I would ask.

Actually, the most environmentally friendly thing you can do is purchase a live Christmas tree, and the reasons are many.

Christmas trees are planted and grown just to be harvested. Christmas tree farms take up space, often on the outskirts of town, putting land into useful production that is often threatened by urbanization and development. Tree farms support complex ecosystems including providing habitat for wildlife. While these trees are growing, foxes, raccoons, and other critters find a place to live and raise young. Christmas trees themselves are the perfect places for nesting birds. Christmas tree farms also boost the local economy by providing jobs to people who help keep the trees trimmed, the grass mowed and the area managed.

Some people have proclaimed that live cut trees have chemical residue. 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 trails, 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.

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 from plastics and metals. Artificial trees are largely made from PVC. Lead is used in the process of making PVC. 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. There, dioxins are released into the water and 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 can’t go out any longer to 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 a thrift store, church, school, nursing home or business that can continue to use it.

Often, it’s tradition that brings families to a tree farm. They remember cutting down a tree as a kid, and they want to instill these warm memories with their kids. I hope you are able to enjoy this tradition with your family.

Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.