By Camille Aubin
camille@columbiavalleypioneer.com

Christmas is approaching! Most of us have already started decorating our homes and offices to feel the magic of the holiday season. But what about the Christmas tree? Every year the same debate starts over again: a natural Christmas tree or a plastic one? In case you are hesitate between both options for environmental reasons, here is some information for you.

Plastic trees can be reused for many years, but a natural tree, well that’s natural. Which will be better, ecologically speaking?

Let’s get this straight: the process of creating a plastic tree creates quite a bit of carbon, and consequently a plastic Christmas tree needs be stored and re-used for 20 years before its carbon footprint is equal to that of a natural tree. Generally speaking, we are pretty far from that 20-year goal, as North Americans keep their plastic Christmas tree for an average of six years each.

Fake trees are worse than the real ones for many other reasons. Artificial trees are made overseas, mostly in China, mostly out of petroleum-based PVC plastic. These trees will be discarded in a landfill for centuries, long after Christmas has passed. Even calculating based on the emissions cost of transport, we are not even close. This is a stark contrast to a real tree, which takes about ten years to grow, all while releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the air.

Regenerating the plantation regularly has a positive impact on the environment as young firs absorb a lot of carbon dioxide. So, no need to feel guilty about buying a cut tree! Ideally, you should know where your trees come from. However as of yet, it is quite difficult to know exact information, given how some Christmas tree growing operations use, or perhaps even misuse, pesticides… The ideal situation is to have a locally grown Christmas tree.

Real trees are 100 per cent biodegradable and can be recycled for mulch. The important thing is to throw it in the right place. Most municipalities now collect trees after Christmas.

There are other options available to us. For example, if you don’t have the heart to buy a cut tree, it is also possible to buy potted trees. This is ideal if you have a garden or know someone who will be able to salvage and replant it. You can also create an original tree using garland or wood or decorate your indoor plants as a tree.

If you already have an artificial tree, keep using it as long as you can. But if you are undecided between the two, remember to keep it real this holiday and the planet will thank you.