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Fake vs Real: Which Christmas Trees are Greenest?

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Fresh Cut Trees
In the early 1900s as the result of the craze for Christmas trees, the natural supply of evergreens began to dwindle.

Conservationists became alarmed and began to encourage people to use artificial trees, the early versions consisting of branches of deciduous trees wrapped in cotton. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt requested no fresh cut trees in the White House out of concern for the forests. But the same year, a wise farmer started the first Christmas tree farm and the rest is history.

Nowadays almost all of the nearly 30 million Christmas trees Americans use for decoration are grown on farms—like flowers, or vegetables. But when you realize that a Christmas tree takes six to 12 years to grow, it seems like a lot of effort involved for a few weeks of holiday spirit. Not to be the Grinch here, but when you consider the use of water, pesticides and herbicides, in combination with soil erosion and the energy used to maintain the crop and transport the trees, well, I don’t know. On the other hand, the trees are renewable, provide habitat for wild animals, absorb carbon dioxide and create oxygen, and the industry provides many jobs. Still mass agriculture is mass agriculture, so if you decide on a fresh cut tree follow these tips.

• Try to buy an organic Christmas tree.
• Buy from smaller, local farms to reduce transportation miles and support a small, sustainable operation.
• Recycle your tree! Check your local municipality to see if there is Christmas tree recycling near you, or read here for tips on how to recycle on your own.
• Don’t use tinsel or fake snow spray; they are hard to remove and make your tree ineligible for recycling.

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Read more: Christmas, Green, Green Home Decor, Holidays, Home, Life, , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

381 comments

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10:08PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thank you for info.

10:07PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thank you for info.

7:02PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Where I come from in Louisiana, all the trees become sandbar reinforcements after christmas, which helps slow coastal erosion. So I don't mind my parents buying a new one every year. Plus, the smell adds to their worth! But for myself, when I grow up, I think I'd like to have a living tree or cactus. That would be superb! And I could use some pine and cinnamon oils for cleaning during december to sort-of mimic the smell in my home. ^_^

10:27AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

Quite ironic is the fact that the "Christmas" tree is supposed to be an icon of immortality and life in the harsh winter nights, but millions of trees en up dead after a sad decay under flashy lights and plastic ornaments...

Imagine what would happen if instead of chopping down a tree for these annual rituals we would plant one every year.

Millions of new trees planted every year would really make a merry little Christmas for me.

.C.

8:52PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

The living tree is the greenest because it can be used year after year if taken care of. And each year it will be better than the year past. When it gets too tall, then plant it outside and decorate it there.

8:33PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

I would love to have a real tree for a Christmas Tree.:) I am planning to have one this Christmas with all the natural trimmings and natural decors to adorn the Tree:) Yehey!!!!

12:43PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

Well no tree here, I tree is the beatifulest outside in the woods. And plastic I found not needed. But then again ,, I have cats :)

11:20AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

not to mention that the farm land if not used to grow trees could be developed and exploited for something else...

11:17AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

Well, I think of it this way. Fake trees are made in China. Real trees are farmed in the US and Canada, giving jobs to more local folks - not just the farmers, but also the truck drivers and many retail distributors including non-profits that benefit by selling them. A good way to spread a dollar these days.

4:00AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

I buy a small potted tree and decorate it. Then after it's done inside I plant it outside or give it to someone who wants to plant it. Also one year when clearing an acre of land to be able to reestablish the native forest I cut down a cedar (had to go to get rid of the honeysuckle) and used it.

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