Real vs. Fake: the BIG debate…

Hey, where’s your mind?  You know I’m talking about Christmas trees, right?  Of course you did!… sheesh.

But the debate over real Christmas trees vs. the artificial option has been raging for some time.  Both sides give a pretty good argument but for as long as I can remember, my mom and now my own family have gone the route of artificial trees.

Aside from the fact that you can now buy them with the lights already attached (for the “no-cursing-over-the-tangled-light-strings”-factor!) they are easy to assemble so you can get to the fun part of decorating!  And my eco-friendly favorite factor… they get used year, after year, after year…

My husband would probably tell you a different story and that is the fact that I have compassion for literally everything(!) and would never dream of killing a tree!  He has been known to yell “OUCH!” when I bite into a piece of broccoli (to which I scream back “STOP IT!”) because then I feel bad for the broccoli! (Now you think I’ve gone mad, don’t you!)  Don’t laugh.  A friend of mine won’t put anything in the dishwasher by itself because she thinks it will be lonely.  (See, we’re all nuts!)

But seriously, the environmental side of using live trees is the fact that they require herbicides and pesticides for about 8-12 years before they’re a “sellable” size.  Add to that the carbon footprint of getting them to a selling site, unless you live near a tree farm or cut your own.  At the end of the season, they end up in the trash, unless you seek out a source for recycling them for mulch or compost.

On the opposite side, artificial trees are often manufactured in China (with PVC and, some say, lead) and you have to consider the “cost” of getting them to your local retailer, but they do get used again and again.  And often, they get donated to another family or organization before they eventually meet a landfill once they are tattered, old and no longer loved. 🙁   Unfortunately, I haven’t heard of a biodegradable artificial tree just yet.

So what is the answer to the debate?  Simply… I don’t know for sure.

Actually, the most environmental choice would be to buy a live, uncut tree with the root ball still intact and then plant it right after the holidays.  One consideration though (especially in cold climates) is digging a hole in the frozen ground.  For this, I recommend digging the hole ASAP and then you can just plant it as soon as the holidays are over. ( I also recommend talking to a professional about how to move them outdoors and properly plant them, to increase the chance of survival.)

But whatever you choose for your family, do the responsible thing and see that your real tree gets composed or mulched or use your artificial tree for years and years to come.

Now, I have to get back to steaming some broccoli…awww.  Poor broccoli.

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7 thoughts on “Real vs. Fake: the BIG debate…

  1. Mike – thanks for a great resource! Wish I was in the market but alas we have one and will use it for a very long time!

  2. being jewish, we don’t have a tree, but i am still thinking of this issue. would an organic christmas tree be best b/c then there is a tree reducing CO2 while it is produced, as opposed to a fake that creates CO2.

    Emily Rs last blog post..Part three: Asymmetry

  3. Emily R – I love that you still think about this! 🙂 The trees definitely have a benefit while they are growing, but it almost cancels it out when you consider the herbicides and pesticides they require when growing. The number of organic tree farms I could find in the US total about a dozen… and most are not even certified yet. Hopefully that will change soon!

  4. Doreen, I’ve been thinking about this too and wondering what the best option is. I love the real tree smell and just having a real one but know that it’s sad to cut down a tree for one month. However, when putting up our articial one this year, my husband read to me the label on the lights (which are already strung around it) about how you should wash your hands because they do have lead on them and in the state of California, it’s a known carcinogen. LOL why doesn’t every state recognize that. but anyway….it’s a tricky topic!

    My next door neighbor gets a live tree and then puts it (with the owner’s permission) in the pond behind our homes for the fish and wildlife. Apparently they’ve done it for years and it’s been a good thing. Someone has a good recycling story for a real tree! 🙂

    OneGreenMommys last blog post..A Little Update

  5. Solder in it might have lead, hence the warning. Computers have the warning, anything electronic can (so far the non-lead solder breaks up withing a few years and can cause shorts. All you can buy now is lead-free solder but there’s a few exceptions & companies weren’t made to ditch the stock of lead solder. There’s a good reason something from the 60’s still works & something made in the 90’s doesn’t!).

    With a real tree, if you find a small local place, odds are they don’t use pesticides. Not sure about in CA where you are, but here in NY bugs don’t really seem to bother pine trees much. I’ve got a few dozen on my property that don’t have any insect issues at all. Technically, if a tree farm doesn’t need/use pesticides, it’s the best option as each tree is replaced. My tree had no pesticides used on it (most around here don’t).

    My neighbor is getting a pine tree uprooted & will have it replanted in his yard. Thus his = the ultimate “green” tree! 😀

  6. OneGreenMommy – I Iove the real tree smell too, but it makes me feel guilty! And I really like what your neighbors are doing… I have heard that and appreciate a thoughtful solution.

    The Happy Friar – another smart neighbor! (And I only WISH I was in Cali… I’m an Ohio girl and right now it is like the Arctic Tundra! ) I do agree though… trees without pesticides would be the best option but again… with me… it’s that guilt thing! 🙂

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