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Real vs Fake Christmas Trees

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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: Nature, Christmas, Eco-friendly tips, Green Home Decor, Holidays & Gifts, Nature & Wildlife, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse,

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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

+ add your own
1:29PM PST on Dec 17, 2011

May I add, unless you are getting a live one to plant in your yard

1:27PM PST on Dec 17, 2011

Save our forrests, , and the fake trees are more lifelike anyway, with lights built in, and reusable for years.......love my fiberoptic one.

1:13PM PST on Dec 17, 2011

Noted. Real christmas trees are so beautiful and smelling so sweet!!

8:06AM PST on Dec 16, 2011

live trees are nice. we have a neighbor who can write off taxes for farmland (and preserve open space) by growing a whole field of christmas trees, and then selling them at the holidays. they are a renewable source of income for her.

she gets lots of families who come during the holidays, get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and cut down their own tree. i enjoy seeing those people getting outside and having a nice time.

i also like live trees because while they are growing, they remove pollutants from the atmosphere, put out oxygen, and brighten the countryside.

so, please consider all of these positives the next time you see live trees for sale.

7:55PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

Mendoza books recently had where they used stacked books to make a "Christmas tree", complete with lights. Perfect for a book-lover like me.
And easier to take down & store than a fake tree

1:23PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

Thanks Melissa. I've always liked fake trees. The ones produced get a little better and more realistic looking with each passing year. You can use them over and over and not have to worry about cleaning up pine needles for the better part of the holiday season. ;)

8:54AM PST on Dec 14, 2011

noted

9:26PM PST on Dec 13, 2011

A tree does not have to die for my Christmas.

6:46PM PST on Dec 13, 2011

Fake trees don't harbor ticks. When employees at Lowes, Home Depot, etc. get the new trees in, they put them on a machine to shake them and get the branches to drop. they report finding ticks on the floor afterwards. Considering that Lyme has surpassed Aids in this country, I don;t want to invite the pesky little critters in. I've had long term Lyme, so I say NO to real trees.

Why is it we feel the need to contain nature and own it, but then we disregard it when it no longer serves our purpose? Trees serve us more alive than dead.

I DO like the idea of having a tree in your yard that you decorate. And if you choose plastic, then don't buy a new one every other year and create more landfill.

Joy A., I like your 1st, 2nd, and 5th points. I agree to a point that we support the petroleum companies, but we should be making those trees LAST, instead of constantly wanting a new one. I don;t understand what you mean by "placing in the lakes for food", but paving walking trails is good. Your 4th point is null, enjoyment, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. enjoyment is a choice. If you chose artificial, that would also provide enjoyment. My other question is how much of the money actually goes to the Boy Scouts? I know that the Girls Scouts get only about .50 for each box of cookies, but what is the return for the Boy Scouts on trees?

What did I choose? I was given and artificial one, and with care it will last me many many years. Each has its good and bad point

6:45AM PST on Dec 13, 2011

i like how the fake ones are poseable

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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