When purchasing a tree for the holiday season, which is more environmentally friendly: a real or fake tree? There is a tendency to think that artificial trees are eco-friendly since they can be reused year after year.
The truth though is that artificial trees are manufactured and shipped overseas and made from PVC, polyvinyl chloride. PVC usually contains traces of lead and is very difficult to recycle. For all these reasons – emitting high levels of greenhouse gases due to transport, PVC content and creating more waste at landfills – a plastic tree is anything but green.
Buying a real tree for the holidays is the best option but it’s important to keep in mind that many tree farmers use harmful pesticides. When purchasing a tree, buy from a local organic farm that uses “integrated pest management” (IPM). If this is not possible, the greenest alternative is to buy a living potted pine tree from your local nursery.
Here are some helpful websites that provide information on how to find a tree that has been certified as organic or chemical-free:
- Local Harvest, a national network of local products, in Santa Cruz, California, lists sources for Christmas trees and wreaths, both organic and conventionally grown;
- Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit group in Washington, provides sources for organic and naturally grown trees, as well as up-to-date information on pesticides;
- Green Promise, a group in Pingree Grove, Illinois, distributes information about sustainable products, and lists sources for organic trees around the country on its Web site.
After the holidays, the best way to get rid of your tree is by recycling it into mulch or replanting it in your yard (make sure appropriate climate conditions exist). To find your nearest Christmas tree recycling program, refer to Earth911.com.
Have a great holiday!