Although an artificial tree may automatically seem like the most ecological solution for the holiday season, the reality is more subtle. In fact, it is preferable instead to choose a natural tree.
Want to know what the Canadian Christmas tree industry is doing to improve our management practices as well as the environment? Their website is full of information and resources and explains how the Christmas tree industry creates thousands of jobs in Canada’s rural regions and brings a beautiful product to market that is an integral part of our heritage.
For all those debating which type of Christmas tree is better — natural or artificial — we have compiled your responses and researched the topic, finding that a real tree is “greener” than its alternative. However, we also concluded that it is better for the environment, not to mention your wallet, to skip getting a Christmas tree altogether. Instead, many families decorate a house plant or make Christmas displays out of wind-fallen branches.
The David Suzuki Foundation conducted an analysis of the environmental impacts of an artificial Christmas tree versus a natural one. Their conclusion was that, considering their whole life cycle, the natural tree is a better choice. Statistics from 2010 also show North Americans agree considering that 27 million real trees were sold last December while 8.2 million artificial ones were bought.
“Re-use” is one of the 3Rs, and it is true that an artificial tree can be used for several years. However, artificial trees are made from non-renewable resources, may contain toxic chemicals and can’t be recycled. On the other side, the Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association (MCTGA) claims positive environmental benefits to real Christmas trees. Natural trees provide habitat for wildlife and, during their growth, they sequester carbon, which helps mitigate climate change. After the holiday season, natural trees can be chipped for mulch and of course they consist of organic material that ultimately breaks down through composting and natural processes. The Association also notes that their Christmas trees are grown on land that is not suitable for other crops. Manitoba Christmas trees also support the local economy and do not require long distance transportation.
What about re-using a natural tree? Because of our climate, it is not possible to keep a live tree and transplant it outside after the holidays. Trees require a dormant period and the shift from indoor to outdoor temperatures will kill your tree. After the holidays, where possible, its best to take the tree to be recycled.
DO IT YOURSELF
Here’s another idea — why not make your own Christmas tree? If you have a cedar or spruce tree that needs trimming, gather the branches and arrange them in a pail of water. Tie them together in the centre and decorate with LED lights and holiday ornaments. This way, you save a tree from being cut down, you don’t buy a plastic one and your growing tree gets a nice pruning, all while you get a unique tree!