Let’s cut to the chase — there is no such thing as a 100-percent eco-friendly artificial tree, no matter how you slice it or dice it. Though these trees are reusable year after year, if you want to upgrade your artificial tree, decide you don’t like its size or shape, or its lights go out and stop working, it cannot be recycled.
For me, this is a conundrum. My daughter is allergic to real Christmas trees. She touched one when she was two and we ended up in the ER because her hands and feet became so swollen. Real Christmas trees can carry over 50 types of mold and trigger allergic reactions, making the holidays a drag for those with allergies and asthma. Having a daughter who’s allergic to different types of Christmas trees and mold means a real tree is not an option for my family.
If you are in the same boat, it’s okay. You can’t choose a totally eco-friendly artificial tree, but you can make some wiser choices that will lessen your environmental impact. Here’s how.
Theses artificial trees have branches are made from injected-mold polyethylene instead of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC off-gases volatile organic compounds and is made from non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic. Many artificial trees made from PVC also test positive for lead. This means you need to shop for a tree that claims to be 100 percent PVC free.
If you cannot afford a PVC-free tree, consider saving an older artificial tree. Not only will you be keeping the tree from ending up in the landfill, but you won’t have to worry about the PVC off-gassing, as that only lasts a few days to a few weeks.
Whatever you choose to buy, think long-term. If you buy a new tree, make sure it’s an investment that you’ll keep for a very long time and will match your decor for years to come.
Choosing an artificial tree with LED lights will save more energy than incandescent lights, so you can feel good about that choice.
If you do end up purchasing a PVC plastic tree, be sure to set your tree up in a place that is well ventilated. If possible, set your new tree up in the garage and give it at least two weeks before decorating to allow for the off-gassing. In addition, avoid letting children touch PVC trees, as they sometimes have lead contamination.
It seems unfathomable, but you can still celebrate without a traditional Christmas tree! If you have a fireplace, you can decorate the mantel and have that be your focal point for the gifts and celebrating. Or, decorate an outdoor tree with lights and homemade ornaments for the birds instead. You may even consider making your own type of tree out of books or ornaments, or a cardboard tree that can be recycled.
Whatever tree you choose, do your research, ask questions and seek out a PE plastic tree if possible. If not, have fun coming up with a non-traditional tree idea and start a new trend!
Green and Clean Mom Sommer Poquette writes often for The Home Depot on lifestyle topics and green choices. If you are also in need of an artificial Christmas tree this year, you can find a wide selection online at Home Depot. Read all of Sommer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS here.
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