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Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree: Which is Greener?

Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree: Which is Greener?

This post is adapted from an article originally posted on the NYTimes Website

Nothing spreads the holiday spirit more than a vibrant, light-covered, Christmas tree. Whether you prefer the smell of a real tree or the ease of having an artificial tree, there are pros and cons to each. As households across the state begin to think about what type of tree to decorate with this year, the New York Times decided to debunk myths and establish the environmental concerns of the debate.

Myth #1: “Cutting down trees is always bad for the environment”

Fortunately, this myth is false! Christmas trees are planted on farms and will have one replanted in their place after being cut. They’re grown on hills that are usually unfit for growing other plants and are biodegradable. Whereas some states have huge almost-industrial Christmas tree farms that outsource trees to stores across the country, smaller farm tree-purchases can offer a big boost to their local economies.

Myth #2: “Reusing an artificial tree reduces its environmental impact”

As you might be able to guess, this is true! Artificial trees are usually made of PVC and steel which run the risk of ending up in a landfill. However, the American Christmas Tree Association states that the environmental impact of artificial trees is less than a real tree if the artificial tree is used for five or more years. However, representatives from the National Christmas Tree Association beg to differ. In sum, there is still debate over the exact environmental impact, but if you do have an artificial tree, re-use it!

Fun Fact: In 2015, Michigan produced approximately 16,334,000 Christmas trees, coming in third in terms of biggest growers of Christmas trees behind Oregon and North Carolina!

Myth #3: “The greenest real tree is the one that’s bought locally and recycled”

Real-tree lovers, this is true! Christmas tree recycling is accessible and affordable. In Grand Rapids, last year the city offered a pickup option with the purchase of a $2.50 bulk tag as well as 4 drop-off sites.

Myth #4: “The tree is just a drop in the bucket in this season of air travel and consumerism”

In other words, Christmas trees, real or artificial, have a minor impact on the environment when compared to the “air travel and consumerism” tied up in the holiday season. And this is true as well! If you really want to make a difference with your lifestyle choices this Christmas season and the new year, reconsider the amount of air traveling and shopping you’re doing and the implications these everyday choices have for the environment.

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