Dilemma of the Trees

By Sydney M.

Ah, Christmas. Frozen noses, falling snow, warm hot chocolate, and perhaps most importantly of all, that age-old question: real or fake tree this year?

This is a daunting question, to say the least. No matter which you choose, there is an environmental impact, but which is the (pun not intended) greener choice?

Let’s start with fake trees. Plastic and life-like, they have an average lifespan of about ten years. You don’t have to buy a new one and haul it home every year, for one thing. There is no shedding of pesky needles and you don’t need to water it. You can set it up weeks before Christmas and it won’t go bad. And at least you aren’t destroying forests – right?

Well, no, but at the end of the tree’s lifespan, you are left with a sizeable hunk of plastic which will not decompose and which will spend many, many years in landfill. Even if incinerated, these trees will give off greenhouse gases and noxious fumes. Additionally, non-renewable resources are necessary for the production of these trees.

Now, onto real trees. Natural Christmas trees are often thought of as contributing to deforestation. In fact, they come from tree farms, and not from actual forests.

However, these farms do cause some problems. Just as any other farm does, they take up space, water, and non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels. These environmental costs are even higher when you consider that the average tree requires 4-5 years to mature.

In addition, many farmers use pesticides and fertilizers which pose numerous potentially life-threatening hazards to local wildlife.

On a much more positive note, natural trees have a quieter, more minimalistic end. They are easily compostable, and are therefore disposed of easily and in an environmentally friendly manner.

Both real and fake require production processes which are none too eco-friendly. Although artificial trees have a much nastier end than natural ones, do either of these two have to be an option?

The answer: NO. Although it may be hard to part with the nostalgia of a fir, many companies are now offering alternatives to traditional trees, such as surprisingly detailed cardboard (recyclable) trees. Another solution would be using a year-round indoor plant as a substitute.

Whether you have an artificial, natural, alternative, or non-existent tree this year, happy holidays to all!