It might seem easy to answer this question. This question, like many environmental questions, is more complex than it seems. Many Americans believe that buying an artificial tree rather than a real tree is one more way to help the environment. Is it better for the environment? This might surprise you.
First, it is important to consider the environmental impacts throughout the entire production process when comparing apples to apples. This includes not only the impacts at the end of the line. It is important to find out where the components were extracted, processed, and assembled if a product is made from metal, plastic, or has electrical components or batteries. Mining and processing metals, and/or other minerals, such as iron, cobalt and aluminum, takes a lot of energy. This is because it uses energy that is almost never renewable and can cause pollution. Nearly all plastics are made from petroleum products that were mined from deep beneath the Earth.
The pollution caused by manufacturing products from raw materials that are not in compliance with labor laws or environmental regulations in distant countries can be very significant. This is especially true when considering the energy required to ship the product all over the world to reach your location. This is why 85% of artificial Christmas trees sold in America today are manufactured in China (roughly 7700 miles away from the US’s eastern border). To truly assess the environmental impact of a product, it is important to consider how the product is used up, broken down, and thrown away. Is it recyclable or should it go to the landfill? Will it decompose quickly or will it remain in the ground for many centuries and potentially release toxic substances into the soil?
Real Christmas trees are much more energy-efficient than artificial varieties. This is because the mining, transportation, manufacturing, and distribution of many raw materials used in artificial trees is eliminated. Artificial trees can also cause soil, water, and air problems. However, live Christmas trees have huge positive environmental and health benefits. The energy required to transport live trees to market is minimal as they don’t usually have to be transported from faraway locations. There are 350,000 acres of Christmas tree farm plants in the US. This has huge benefits for water quality, air quality and soil stability. It also reduces flooding risks and provides wildlife habitat. At least two trees are planted for each live Christmas tree that is cut. This ensures that there is always a supply of new crop trees to keep wild forests from being destroyed. After the season is over, a live Christmas tree can be recycled into a variety healthy, beneficial, biodegradable products. These include everything from fish habitat structures to garden mulch to tree and shrub mulch. Artificial trees, on the other hand, can be discarded and left to contaminate the environment for a long time.
Consider purchasing a live Christmas Tree to support the approximately 100,000 US workers who rely on it for their annual income and the significant environmental benefits that it can bring.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas from everyone at the Bradford County Conservation District!
The Bradford County Conservation District is committed in helping people to manage their resources efficiently. You can find the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd, Wysox, right next to the Wysox Fire Hall. Call us at (570-485-3144, or visit our webpage at www.bccdpa.com.