If you want to have a more sustainable holiday, do you go with an artificial or living tree? Both have organizations behind them, fighting to be the more sustainable choice. But which is the winner? You decide.
Are Artificial Trees the Way to Go?
Since the Addis Brush company marketed the first artificial tree in the 1930s, these trees have been evolving. Now, many look just like real trees and even smell like them. Here are the pros and cons to using them in your home.
- Cost. The average cost for an artificial tree is $78, which may seem steep. But when you put that head to head with the average cost of a cut tree at $46, you’ll actually break even, and even save money, by just the second year of use. You should also consider the cost of lighting and tree stands, which are included in the artificial tree. Live tree purchasers need to add those costs to the $46. Most people will keep their trees for much longer than two years too – they may keep them for decades.
- Convenience. Forget tromping out to the tree stand, or even the field, to fell your own tree in the frigid temperatures. Forget the crazy holiday traffic, your grumpy kids, and the muddy fields you must traverse to get there, not to mention the backbreaking work of cutting and hauling your tree home (after first attaching it precariously to your car roof). With an artificial tree, you go to the basement, pull out the box, and put the thing together. You also won’t have to water it or contend with falling needles. And cleanup is easier than dragging a heavier tree to your curb.
- Nonrecyclable and Nonbiodegradable: Artificial trees are usually made with metal and PVC, which is a non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic. Most last five to seven years, and are typically not accepted by consignment shops. About 85% come from China, which adds large emissions due to transportation.
- You still have to store it.
Do Living Trees Make More Sense?
The National Christmas Tree Association represents Christmas tree farmers across the country, who sell a combined 25-30 million trees in North America every year, according to the EPA.
- Treecycling: A full 93% are actually “treecycled.” Different from being dumped in a landfill where they would take many decades to decompose, this approach turns trees into mulch, playground materials, walkways, hiking trails, fish and wildlife habitats, river and lake shoreline stabilizers, and beachfront erosion preventers, as well as other useful landscaping materials that decompose quickly while adding beauty to yards and other areas.
- Environmentally Friendly: Tree farmers must also plant one to three new trees for every cut tree. While they are alive, they also help the environment by absorbing more than one ton of CO2 over their lifetimes, and an acre produces enough oxygen for 18 people daily.
Chemicals and Greenhouse Gases: While some trees are organically grown, many farmers use herbicides, pesticides, and other fertilizers that harm the Earth. And the transportation of trees may also leave a large carbon footprint if you live in an area far from trees.
One Other Thought
Have you considered one more option? What about a living tree with roots that can be planted after the holidays? These trees will continue to provide oxygen and sequester CO2 for years to come. While they are large and heavy, and must be planted within a couple of weeks after purchase, they provide lasting beauty and health.
So Who Wins?
Environmentalists argue for the living tree over the artificial tree due to the fact that these trees are carbon-neutral, US-produced, and can be made into other materials that help the environment.
What do you think? Will you have a real or artificial tree – or even one you can plant?
At Double A Paper, we take pride in providing fully sustainable paper to our customers. We support farmers planting trees on the unused land between rice paddies, called the KHAN-NA, and provide them with supplemental income. Try a sample of our paper today!