Every year, we gather around this time to celebrate our respective holidays. Unfortunately, our waste increases by about 30% during the holidays! Wild! Naturally, we eco-conscious folk look at everything we’re doing, trying our best to find ways to reduce our waste. In comes the Christmas Tree. This quintessential piece Christmas season is depicted in almost every holiday display.
We want to know how to make our holidays more sustainable and trees are the one thing many focus on as the pièce de resistance. But, then we come across several issues: your building doesn’t allow real trees, your town or city doesn’t have a Christmas tree pick up, is a plastic tree actually better than a live tree that decomposes, etcetera etcetera.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m ALL about Christmas/ Holiday decor and fully support cutting down evergreen trees and brought inside for a few weeks! I’m also a supporter of fake trees in certain circumstances. I promise, we can have our trees and enjoy a sustainable holiday, too!
Benefits of Real Christmas Trees
Who doesn’t love a real Christmas tree? Their smell is incredible and having plants around our homes improves air quality and our moods.
“But HeAtHeRrRr… Isn’t cutting down trees a bad thing?!”
Yes, it is… If they’re cut down from a forest. Christmas trees are grown on farms, not cut from forests. To add to this benefit, most farmers will plant between 1-3 new trees for every tree cut down.
Moreover, real trees are often locally grown, cutting carbon emissions from transport. There are Christmas Tree farms in almost every US state and all through Canada, giving us TONS of local sources! Not just that, but these farms are often located on land that’s otherwise unusable. The trees produce loads of oxygen, help support local ecosystems, and stabilize the soil as they grow. Who doesn’t want all of that?!
Finally, real trees can be composted or recycled. You can either throw them on your compost pile or turn them into mulch. Most cities and towns have a Christmas tree pick up program and will compost the trees at the end of their lives, doing the work for you. Just make sure to leave them out of plastic bags! Most of these public programs will not take your tree if it’s in a bag.
The Problem with Real Trees
Unfortunately, many real trees are grown with tons of pesticides, as they are vulnerable to several different pests and diseases. By the time the tree reaches your home, the pesticides will have washed away and will not pose a risk to you or your loved ones.
Despite the lack of risk to you, pesticides are harmful to the environment and local ecosystem.
Another con isn’t necessarily sustainability related – real trees create more mess. They drop needles all over the place, especially if you don’t water and care for the tree properly, and can occasionally bring bugs and other critters into your home. To top it off, your tree can become a fire hazard if it’s not cared for and dries out. This is one of the many reasons many condo buildings don’t allow real trees.
Fake Christmas Tree Pros
Fake trees aren’t all bad. You can reuse these babies. Overall, if you reuse them for many years, fake trees will save you tons of money and will reduce your carbon emissions over the holiday season. In addition, many fake trees come pre-decorated, saving you time!
What are the Issues with a Fake Christmas Tree?
Possibly the biggest thing against fake trees is the material. They’re not recyclable, as they are made from plastic and steel. These base materials can contain traces of lead, which can pose a multitude of health risks. Now, while these risks are very, VERY small, they are more concerning when involving small children.
Carbon emissions are another point against fake trees. China produces approximately 85% of fake trees and ship them to North America. Think about all the emissions generated from that transport!
Finally, fake trees are only more environmentally friendly than a real tree if used for 9 or more years. Most families will only reuse a tree for maximum 6 years before sending it to a landfill.
Winner, Winner, Christmas Tree Dinner
All in all, real trees come out on top when considering environmental impact.
Despite this, it’s not always accessible or the best choice for every person. If you’re able to dispose of the real tree properly after the Christmas season, perfect! Get a real tree. If you choose to go with a fake tree, use it for as long as you can. Avoid buying new, which can be a great option. Check out Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or your local thrift store. There really is no such thing as a bad tree.
Other options I have not delved into in the article are Tree Rentals or using a potted tree. They are REALLY the most sustainable options, but are still relatively new and aren’t available everywhere.