How green is your Christmas going to be this year? That’s the question that seems to be dominating many media reports as we head towards December 25. Christmas is, after all, a time of excess in nearly everything we do. As consumers we tend to consume more in December than in any other month.
I find much entertainment value in the real vs. fake Christmas tree argument. This debate seems much more heated this year than in the past and I have enjoyed reading many articles recently on the virtues of the real, plantation-grown Christmas tree versus the artificial, almost everlasting model.
Which is better? Which tree has a smaller carbon footprint, or consumes less energy in its production? What’s the bottom line when it comes to the environment? You can make an argument for both it seems.
In one corner you have the real Christmas tree lobby. Contrary to popular opinion real trees are not clear-cut from the forest. Buying a real tree does not mean that you are contributing to the deforestation of the planet. Christmas trees are grown, for the most part, on farms, some of which are quite large.
Tree growers in areas such as Oregon, where some 8 million trees are harvested each year, are farmers, producing a crop just like any other agricultural crop. They plant selected seed, raise that seed in an intensively-managed environment and harvest the crop after six to ten years have passed.
Yes, chemical fertilizers are used to grow the trees and chemical pesticides are no doubt used to control insects and diseases, just as they are used in a field of corn or potatoes. There is energy consumed throughout the entire process. Farm machinery burns fuel, helicopters that are used by larger growers to bring the trees out of the field burns fuel, the trucks that transport the trees to markets burns fuel.
Those who favour the artificial trees point to their cleanliness, their convenience and their sometimes uncanny resemblance to the real thing. There’s no mess, no annual disposal, no driving to the tree lot to buy each year, no electricity consumed to run the vacuum cleaner to suck needles out of the carpet.
Some people suffer from allergies and can’t handle the strong scent of a real tree, or they live in buildings where real trees are prohibited because of fire regulations. For them, an artificial tree is the only option.
There are many people who love to have their Christmas tree up long before December arrives. I read an article this week about a woman in Iowa who has 16 Christmas trees set up in her house. Real trees are not a feasible option when you have that many trees; you’d spend all of your day adding water to the stands.
It’s not the purpose of this column to try to persuade you that one is better than the other. The garden centre where I’m a manager sells both artificial and real trees. You can make your own choice.
Will I ever have anything but a real tree in my house? Would I ever consider buying an artificial tree? My answer is just four words: over my dead body. Enjoy your Christmas tree this month, real or fake.