​​​​​Real or fake Christmas tree? It really all depends on where it ends

By: Irene Sans

Updated:

This is the yearly battle among the people who want that evergreen smell in their homes, environmentalists and the people who just want to celebrate. But with taking care of our environment becoming a more important issue every day, one must ask if all that plastic in fake trees is good for the environment, or if cutting trees is really a good thing to do, or if it makes sense to bring a tree from a distant state to have it up for a few weeks and then toss it after Santa leaves the presents under it.

 

First, let’s talk about fake trees.
A fake tree is made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which does not decompose. Most of the fake Christmas trees come from China. If we consider the cost of production, packaging, transportation from Asia to the United States and transportation to the store from which you will buy the tree, each tree contributes about 9 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That’s about the same as driving an average car 10-15 miles. So, if you must drive more than 10 miles to get your evergreen fix, it might be better to get an artificial evergreen.

 

The real -- and complex -- deal
There are more factors to consider when it comes to real trees.
First, most of the most popular real trees are grown in Oregon, Wisconsin and other northern states. If you are looking for a specific type of tree, such as a Douglas fir, which is usually grown in northwestern states, or a Fraser fir from the Appalachian area, you are looking for a tree that will also have to travel quite a bit to get to Florida, and then to your living room.

Climate plays a key role in tree production in the states mentioned above. For example, an average tree from northerly states could take up to 10 years to grow to an acceptable “Christmas tree size” of about 6 feet. If the temperatures during that decade have varied much, or the area where the tree has grown has gone through a severe or extensive drought -- soil moisture is important for trees to take in nutrients -- the trees would
have gone through several layers of stress. This means the tree could be thinner or shorter. It could also mean no trees at all.

 

Watch: Locally, nationally and globally, temperatures are upslope 

PHOTOS: Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees

Real trees grow better in cooler and wetter environments. The optimal altitude for Christmas trees to grow is above 5,000 feet, but most commercial growers are between 2,200 and 4,200 feet.
Considering the warming trend in the U.S., growers in the Appalachian area would have to shift their crops to a higher altitude if they want to give their trees better odds of surviving the warming trend and becoming greener, leafier and denser.

 

Research by the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Maine showed that the warming trend across the northwestern states could shift the growth of the Douglas fir east and northward, which will ultimately add more miles for this type of tree to make it to your Floridian residence.

 

A study by the US Forest Service and the University of Maine - Projected future suitable habitat and productivity of Douglas-fir in western north America
US Forest Service/University of Maine

 

And, of course, the way the tree farm works -- the amount of water used, how it’s used and the amount of production -- also plays a role in the tree’s footprint.

Christmas trees grown in tree farms are grown for the sole purpose of being harvested for Christmas trees.

 

Many "U-pick" farms replace each tree cut with one to three seedlings, which continue removing carbon from the air.

 

Popular varieties of living Christmas trees in short supply in Central Florida

If you choose a natural tree, make sure to discard all ornaments when you are done with it
and dispose of it correctly.

The best option is to buy a tree from a local tree farm, preferably the one closest to you.

 

Local: Central Florida Tree Farms

The Canadian consulting firm Ellipsos conducted in-depth research to find out which type of tree is the best fit for the environment. A natural tree is better for the environment if compared to an artificial tree tossed out before six uses. Ideally, an artificial tree would last you 20 years, to reduce impacts on all the categories in which a natural tree would bring benefits.

Over an entire life cycle of a natural tree, it would emit 6.8 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, which is equal to about 78 miles driven by car. An artificial tree would emit about 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, which is about 200 miles driven by car.

 

WATCH MORE WEATHER FACTS AND HACKS

So, if you choose the artificial tree, you can catch up to those extra pounds of carbon dioxide emitted by carpooling or biking to work for a few weeks a year.

There are many other activities that you could do each day to make a difference and cut your carbon footprint. But if the Christmas tree issue really bugs you, there are many do-it-yourself options you can try instead of a tree. Check out the pictures below.
 

 

RDO’s calls for craft days. #diychristmastree #beachhouse #madmonday #crafty 🎄

A post shared by Georgia Livingston (@georgialivingston) on

 

Starting to thinkChristmas here... #diychristmastree #wallartdecor #festiveseason #cushions #homedecorating #kiwichristmas

A post shared by Ingredients Textile Design (@ingredientsdesignnz) on

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