Friday, December 10, 2010

You Choose the "Greener" Christmas Tree

There's been much debate for years about which tree is better for the environment -- a real Christmas tree or an artificial tree. Here are some facts to consider:

Most trees sold in the US are farmed. When they're cut down, two are planted in it's place, so they're considered a 'renewable resource'. The other pluses to real trees are that they hold soil together, provide homes for animals and birds, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere --- and they smell great!

On the flip side, most tree farmers use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that can have a negative impact on wildlife and water quality, and pose a risk to the quality of human health. Chemicals such as glyphosate (Monsanto's "Roundup") has been associated with chest pains and nausea in humans, and is deadly to fish and beneficial insects. Other chemicals (such as organophophates di-syston 15-G) can cause convulsions, unconsciousness, tremors and breathing difficulties. Most of these chemicals are washed away by rain before you buy your tree, but their environmental impact remains.

As an alternative, you could consider a living evergreen, sold with its root ball so it can be planted outdoors. If planting isn't an option where you live, contact your city hall, church or neighbors to see if the tree could be planted in the community. You could also sell or donate it on Craigslist.

If you live in Portland, Oregon, The Original Living Christmas Tree Company will deliver full size potted Christmas trees to your door. They will pick them up after New Year's and plant them around schools, churches, parks, and watersheds all over the Northwest.

If you don't live in Portland, but love this idea (and need or want work), consider a franchise:
Why not get started now? -- Next Christmas will be here before you know it!

Artificial trees don't shed needles and can be reused, but the needles are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a major source of dioxins. Many times, PVC is stabilized with lead, which can turn to harmful dust as the artificial trees age. It's said that newer artificial trees are made with polyethylene instead of PVC, but check the tag or box to make sure. An artificial tree becomes more environmentally friendly the longer it's kept.

If you choose a real tree, it's best purchased from a local organic grower. Here's a list:
Green Promise has other resources, too. Check 'em out!

After the holidays, dispose of your tree responsibly -- contact your local trash collection office for information about chipping or composting programs. Do not burn them in your fireplace, as that can be hazardous.

Merry Christmas!

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