Who besides maybe the Grinch doesn’t love the excitement of putting up the holiday Christmas tree? For about 30% of us in the US, the holiday season starts as a family affair picking out the perfect shaped tree at the annual Christmas tree lot while for the other 70% it’s dragging it down from the home attic. So what are the eco facts, real or artificial?
Who can deny, that the natural pine scent of a real tree adds the perfect touch to the holiday décor. For some people, there’ no question, a real tree is the more eco-friendly choice and by reducing the carbon footprint of the transportation costs and supporting a local farmer the purchasing of a real tree can make a lot of eco sense. Not because how many uses you can get from your tree but more of what the tree is made of, and what it does to the environment when it is created and when you dispose of it.
Not only are real trees 100% compostable and make excellent mulch for other plants, an acre of Douglas firs can absorb about 11,308 lbs of carbon dioxide. That’s pretty impressive. You won’t get that out of an artificial tree!!! However, real trees do have their drawbacks. When you go down to the local lot be prepared to pay the cashier close to $100 before you strap a tree on to the roof of your car.
Well, you’ve got a real tree but that real tree has been treated for some real pest problems, and unless it’s bought from an organic Christmas tree farm, which is few and far between, we are talking about a pretty big plant in the house loaded with toxic pesticides. Not too much to say about that…. I think it’s pretty clear!
While a real tree should be enhancing the festive feel, research suggests a live tree may actually be making some people sick. Once inside our centrally heated homes a number of different molds can flourish on trees. Within a short time these spores can rapidly increase causing “Christmas Tree Syndrome”. A study done at Upstate Medical University in New York found 53 different kinds of mold present on 23 samples of bark and pine needles from Christmas trees from homes. A couple weeks into the study, the number of spores increased exponentially, and these weren’t everyday molds — 70 % were of the type that causes asthma, sneezing and a runny nose. For these people an artificial tree might be the way to go.
Artificial trees have come a long way from the first trees that were manufactured. It’s hard pressed distinguishing the artificial trees from the real thing anymore… accept of course for that natural pine scent. Artificial trees are easier on the wallet and can be passed down for generations making them in some opinions very eco-friendly. Like a real tree however, they have their drawbacks as well.
The material of a manufactured Christmas tree is both non-recyclable and polluting. Furthermore, the most artificial trees are manufactured using PVC resulting in the emission of a number of cancer causing carcinogens. Additionally, the manufacturers use lead and other chemicals linked to liver, kidney, neurological, and reproductive system damage in lab studies on animals. The Children’s Health Environmental Coalition warns artificial trees may shed lead-laced dust that gets dispersed throughout the home. This could definitely be a concern for a crawling baby. Due to their lead content, some artificial trees actually come with warning labels. As hard as it may be, to be on the safe side children should not be allowed to touch the tree. And anyone who handles the tree should wash their hands thoroughly before touching their face or handling food. 85% of artificial trees are imported. Buying one in America can greatly reduce the chances of toxins and can save a local manufacturing job as well as reducing the carbon footprint due to shipping.
So, if you’re in the market for a Christmas tree this holiday season, in most cases, whether you buy a real tree or an artificial one doesn’t significantly change environmental impact you’ll have on the planet. Rather, what matters is how far you drive to get your real tree, how you dispose of it and how many years the artificial tree is used is what really makes the difference.
5 Phases is dedicated to helping families achieve a healthier and organic lifestyle. Starting with baby, we develop products keeping both the environment and health of your family in mind. Learn more @ www.5phases.com follow us on twitter @5_Phases and like our Facebook page to help spread the word about healthy starts for infants.