Real vs Fake: Christmas Trees that is

I love this time of year when the holiday shows run 24/7. Give me an evening of sappy movies, a few snacks and a box of tissues and I’m deliriously happy, in a wet, sloppy kind of way. My favorite tear-jerker of all?

A Charlie Brown Christmas. Every time Charlie Brown places that oversized bulb on the little stick tree and says “I’ve killed it” …., my heart melts. I’m weak I know. But, in my defense, most of us who celebrate Christmas have a soft spot for the tree.

When I was young, I thought Christmas trees grew in Drive-in Movie lots. Wrapped up like green mummies propped up against the snack-bar walls, they all looked alike. My Dad would choose one with the straightest trunk and heave it up onto the roof of our car for the ride home. Once there, he would snip off the twine, or later plastic netting, so the tree branches could “fall” (stick out like normal) before we could decorate. Thus tree-buying and decorating took 2 full days.

But at least the trees were real.

Today, there are choices.

You can go with a standard “real” tree: such as balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine or white pine. Or you can purchase what is known as a fake or artificial one.

And the $64,000 question?  Which is really “greener” in an environmental sense?

You might answer the artificial ones since there is no cutting involved. For we all know trees are the Sherman tanks in the war against manmade climate change. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. You may not be smarter than a fifth grader.

According to The National Christmas Tree Association, for every real Christmas tree harvested, 1 to 3 seedlings are planted the following spring. But wait a minute; if trees grow really slow, (the average 6-7 foot Christmas variety takes anywhere from 4-15 years), how do these little twigs substitute for the carbon-dioxide-sucking adult that was cut-down for your living room pleasure? Well, truth be told, although they’re small, seedlings do a pretty good job. On top of this, only about 25-30 million real Christmas Trees are sold in the U.S. every year, a small percentage of the close to 350 million that grow on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone. That still leaves oodles of adult trees to suck carbon-dioxide, provide scenic views and homes for our furry and flighty friends.

Oh, about recycling. Currently there are more than 4,000 local Christmas tree recycling programs throughout the United States who will mulch your trees when the season is over. And according to The Nature Conservancy, trees can also be reused as sand traps on beaches to prevent erosion, or sunk in ponds to provide habitat for fish and other wildlife. Clip off a few branches and you’ve got free protective coverings for your delicate shrubs.

Okay, so real trees are renewable resources and all, but aren’t fake trees better for the environment since they last so much longer?

Here’s the skinny on fake trees. Albeit these might be just the ticket for people who suffer from some allergies, the product content is little iffy. Many are made outside the United States for instance where component disclosures are about as common as jackalopes.

Also, artificial trees are made of non-biodegradable plastics and possibly metal toxins such as lead, hence they cannot be recycled, or used for other purposes and basically fall into that what-to-do-with-this black hole once they outlive their usefulness, or when you decide to upgrade.

So, the jury is in. Real – good; fake – not so good. But you take your pick and if you want to go totally retro you can buy the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree at Walgren’s. But I’m afraid these reproductions are just that – fake.

As for me, I’ll be trudging along in the wilds of the nearest Christmas Tree farm in a few days with the family to find just the right one with a straight trunk, of course.

Until then, I’m going to continue watching my holiday movies and expanding my thighs along with the Grinch’s heart.

Click here for more information about Christmas trees.


About greenupforlife

Facing life one green challenge at a time. Freelance writer specializing in green and sustainable articles, blogs, cocktail napkins, whatever keeps the creditors at bay, while building my client base leaf by leaf.
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