For many people the holidays wouldn’t be complete without a Christmas tree – all decorated and festive. But have you ever considered the environmental impact of your Christmas tree? Which is the better option: artificial or real? On one hand it is made of PVC plastic making it non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. On the other hand consider the agricultural impact of the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers applied throughout its lifetime.
But all hope is not lost! There are many options available to make your Christmas tree more environmentally-friendly this year, ranging from disposal methods to the type of tree you purchase.
Arguably the worst option for a Christmas tree, from the perspective of the environment, is an artificial tree. You might think that using the same artificial tree for many years has to be better than cutting down a real tree annually, but this is simply not the case. Artificial trees are generally made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which is non-recyclable, non-biodegradable and petroleum-derived. This means that they will sit in a landfill for centuries after you dispose of them. It is estimated the 1 artificial tree is equal to the environmental impact of 20 real trees.
A real tree would be your next obvious option – and it’s definitely not a horrible one. A single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime, and on the flip side a single acre of trees produces enough oxygen daily for the needs of 18 people. However, if a real tree is simply left to degrade and decompose outside, the carbon released negates these carbon benefits.
Luckily, there are many exciting options for the disposal/re-purposing of your real Christmas tree in order to make the purchase carbon neutral.
- Donate your used tree to a local hobby farm – goats would love to recycle your trees!
- Turn your old tree into a bird feeder by placing the tree in your garden or backyard, and hanging orange slices or strung popcorn on it.
- Mulch your tree by removing the branches and putting it through a wood chipper.
- Create a habitat for fish by sinking your tree into a nearby pond with deep water.
- Cut your tree into small pieces and use them for decorating your garden beds.
- Use your tree as firewood for a bonfire next summer.
- Participate in a Treecycling program where your tree either is mulched or degraded and used for fertilizer or landscaping. (More and more city Christmas tree pick up programs are re-purposing the trees in this manner rather than just letting them degrade with no purpose).
If you are looking to for environmentally-friendly options at the purchasing stage, consider buying an organic Christmas tree or a “living tree”. An organic tree is grown without the help of pesticides that you get with a conventional real tree. Keep in mind, if you choose an organic tree, still consider using one of the disposal methods listed above.
A “living” tree means that you’ve bought your Christmas tree with the roots intact. The tree is estimated to survive indoors, in a pot, from 10 days to 3 weeks. Afterwards, the tree can be planted outside. Warning: you will need a very big pot and the tree will be very heavy with the roots.
If you’re looking to be more environmentally-friendly this holiday season, consider one of these options when it comes to your Christmas tree.
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