There’s nothing like a stately Christmas tree setting your home aglow to put your family in the holiday spirit. But when it comes time to trim the tree, the nation remains divided: Is it gentler on the earth to bring in a live tree or prop up an artificial one? It seems we’ll never have a definitive answer, as every expert offers a different opinion on the matter. Instead of angsting over your decision, focus on how you can make your tree – real or fake – an eco-friendlier holiday tradition.
The bad: The Environmental Protection Agency reports that there are 33 million trees sold each year. That’s a lot of landfill waste if you consider what happens to them after the holidays.
The good: Christmas tree-lovers are responsible for adding an additional 350 million trees to the environment, according to the University of Illinois Extension. All those trees are grown on more than 170,000 acres of U.S. farms. That’s a lot of greenery, if you ask us.
Make it better: When the holidays are through, your Christmas tree can go on to bring nourishment to the earth. Set it outside a window to serve as a habitat for birds and wildlife, encouraging your kids to stand by and observe. Many cities offer free recycling programs post holiday, hosting a drop-off site that offers to turn your tree into soil-nurturing mulch. Lastly, check with your local Christmas tree farms to see if any offer potted trees. They’re pricier than their cut counterparts, but once the season is over all you need do is pop them back into the soil.
The bad: Check any artificial tree and you’ll find it’s made from polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC. PVC is far from eco-friendly, as it’s not recyclable or biodegradable – meaning your tree, once you’re done with it, remains in the landfill. What’s more, over 80 percent of faux Christmas trees are crafted in China, boosting your carbon footprint even further. Some artificial trees may even contain health hazardous chemicals like lead and phthalates.
The good: Fake trees can be used year after year, saving yet another live tree from being sent out to the trash.
Make it better: A study conducted by the American Christmas Tree Foundation suggests that purchasing an artificial tree to use for 10 years or more is the best way to assure your faux tree is an eco-conscious choice.