How to Choose a Christmas Tree

Choosing a Christmas tree doesn't have to be hard

| December/January 2007

Choosing a Christmas tree may not be as simple as you think. There are real trees, artificial trees and even still-living trees. So, which one of these do you choose? Here's a list of the pros and cons for each type.

Real Trees
Trees produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, which makes them eco-friendly. According to the National Christmas Tree Association over 30 million people buy real trees each year. states that for every tree harvested there are three more that are planted each year. A real tree can also be recycled. Many trees are thrown into lakes, giving fish a natural habitat, or they're turned into mulch.

That all might sound good, but there is a downside. Not all of the trees are found locally. Transportation is still part of the process and may counter the other benefits. Buying locally can help. Many farms also use pesticides so you will want to find a certified organic tree farm in your area. Green Promise publishes a list of organic tree farms. Puget Sound Fresh also lists local farmers markets and farms that have trees. Local co-ops, natural grocery stores and farmers markets may also have listings for organic trees. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is another type of farm management system. These are not as environmentally friendly as organic farms but are better than conventional farms that routinely spray trees.

Fake Trees
About 70 percent of people bought an artificial tree last year, despite the fact that they are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and metals. PVC is a potential source of hazardous lead. Most, about 85 percent, are imported from China. Many even contain warnings about the products used in them. Artificial trees are not biodegradable so they will stay in landfills for years to come.

One eco-friendly aspect of these trees is that they can be reused year after year. On average, they are used for five to 10 years. One CNN report claims that some parts of an artificial tree may be recycled, depending on what the tree is made of. Check on how the tree was made and packaged before buying. Balsam Hill makes artificial trees that contain less PVC than most fake trees. You could also consider an aluminum tree.

Live Trees
The first thing to consider with a live tree is if you can handle planting a tree. Potted trees will need a lot of care to survive until being planted. Many trees will not be able to live indoors until spring when the ground has thawed. Do a little research to find a species native to your area that can survive in a container for several months. Check with your local greenhouse for the best options.


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