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The Green Life: Christmas Trees: Real vs. Fake

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December 03, 2012

Christmas Trees: Real vs. Fake

Christmas Trees Real vs FakeAside from the American tradition of playing continuous Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving on local radio stations, we also know that the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree goes in tandem with the passing of Turkey Day. 

But before you purchase your Christmas tree, we've provided some information as to why a real tree is more sustainable than its fake counterpart. 

Pros and Cons of Fake Christmas Trees

The obvious advantage of a fake Christmas tree is that you can reuse it every year. This not only saves you time and money in shopping for a tree and having to haul it onto your car, into the house, and leaving a trail of pine needles behind; it also prevents many trees from being cut down and wasted. However, there is a very real and serious disadvantage in the way these trees are produced that are both hazardous to the environment as well as our health. Many fake trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC), a non-renewable and petroleum-based plastic, and lead. Making PVC produces carcinogens that are emitted from such factories that further puts people in neighboring neighborhoods at risk for cancer while lead exposure can lead to neurological or reproductive problems.

Pros and Cons of Real Christmas Trees

There's no doubt that the aroma of fresh pine helps real Christmas trees score a point. However, real trees have their drawbacks as well. The amount of pesticides utilized for growing trees are polluting watersheds, and many cities and towns may not have the resources available to compost them. Yet where there's a will for a greener Christmas, there's a way! Environmental activists will agree that if you purchase a real tree from a local grower that still has live roots, you can replant the tree in your yard or a local garden. In this way, you get to enjoy it during the season as well as the rest of the year. Or, if you'd rather, check out some other options that you can look for in terms of real tree recycling such as tree renting, composting, as well as donating.

Compared to the health and environmental issues that fake tree production causes, purchasing a real Christmas tree offers your community and planet great solutions toward overcoming the composting problem that municipalities may face at the end of the year. So while both types of trees pose their hazards, in the end, the more sustainable option is to definitely go authentic.

Christine Nguyen is an editorial intern for Sierra magazine. When she's not teaching 2nd grade or playing with her Yorkie Terrier, she enjoys desserts, the outdoors, and watching "The Walking Dead."

--image by istock//maaram

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