Someone recently asked me about whether it might be a more environmentally sustainable choice to reuse a fake Christmas tree versus cutting a real one down every year. To me, it’s really unequivocal — the real tree is the better option for a host of reasons. I came across a bunch of real tree industry info making the case for real trees, which I will include here, but I would suggest that they barely even touch the surface of how much keeping agriculture local and planting trees is good for the environment. Anyway, I would suggest that a place like ours at Third Stone Farm is even better since we very actively manage the farm to be environmentally beneficial, not just benign. From our organic practice of no chemicals to our use of soil building cover crops or our upcoming community solar installation, there are a lot of ways we’re trying to do better.
I recommend reading this book if you want to understand how local farms can be better, check out “The Soil will Save Us”: http://www.kristinohlson.com/books/soil-will-save-us
From the National Christmas Tree Association:
A farm-grown Christmas Tree is a more eco-friendly choice than a plastic, manufactured tree, which is non-biodegradable.
Consider these facts:
• While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen.
• Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms just like any crop. Harvesting a Christmas Tree is no more damaging to the environment than harvesting an ear of corn.
• To ensure a constant supply, Christmas Tree farmers plant a new seedling for every tree they harvest.
• Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories.
• The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.
• Christmas Trees are often grown on soil that does not support other crops. The farms that grow Christmas Trees stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife.
• Farm-grown trees are biodegradable, which means they can easily be reused or recycled for mulch or other purposes.
• The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by environmental and health groups.
• Swedish researchers found that Real Trees are five times more environmentally compatible than fake trees.
• American Forests, a world leader in tree planting for environmental restoration, has publicly endorsed the commercial growing and use of farm-grown Christmas Trees.
• Real Trees can be recycled in a number of ways, including mulch for parks and trails, in lakes and ponds for fish habitat, dune and coastline restoration efforts and as boiler fuel for factories.
The choice is clear really.
Real Tree = renewable, recyclable, biodegradable plant grown on sustainable farms. Fake Tree = non-renewable materials, not recyclable, non-biodegradable product made in a factory that will end up in a landfill.
From hybrid vehicles to water-saving toilets, many companies are trying to capture the interest of the environmentally conscious consumer. The Real Christmas Tree industry has it easy – our product has always been the environmental choice. The question is – do most people know it?
When it comes to Christmas trees, the environmental issue is one where the farm-grown Christmas tree has the upper hand, but it’s up to us to make sure this message is heard and it’s been an uphill battle.
While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and emit fresh oxygen. They are grown on farms just like any crop. Christmas tree farmers plant new seedlings every spring to replace those harvested. In 2008, an estimated 45 million new trees were planted by Christmas tree farmers across North America. Here at our farm, we planted 1300 new trees this year. There are close to a half billion conifer trees growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone. These trees would not exist if not planted by Christmas tree farmers. Christmas Trees stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and support complex eco-systems. And of course, farm-grown Christmas trees can be recycled, whereas fake trees can not.
What about the fake tree? Isn’t it better for the environment if you use something over and over? Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill indefinitely. The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by many environmental groups.
Is the environment really that big a factor in consumers’ decisions? In a national consumer poll, 21% of those respondents who displayed an artificial tree cited environmental concerns as the reason. Even if consumers do not recognize the environment as one of the factors in their decision, it is important that the correct facts are out there.
Does anyone really still believe that Christmas Trees come from forests? Yes, unfortunately. However, those of us in the Real Christmas tree industry have made great strides in recent years in breaking down the myths surrounding Real Christmas trees, but there is still work to be done. Consumers today are farther removed from agriculture than ever before, and it is up to us as an industry to educate them. Go to www.realchristmastrees.org