Monday, December 3, 2012

How Green is Your Christmas Tree?

From flickr by
Which is more eco-friendly, a real or an artificial Christmas tree? Environmental groups, including the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council all agree: natural is best, both for the environment and for your family's health. 

Nevertheless, sales of artificial trees continue to climb; they are expected to hit 13.4 million trees this year, for a record $1.07 billion in sales. In the U.S., twice as many homes will put up fake trees as will display real ones.

The vast majority of artificial trees are manufactured in, and shipped here from, China. Their transportation alone creates a huge carbon footprint. Fake trees are made from PVC, a petroleum-derived plastic. PVC is toxic to the environment and to human health throughout its life cycle, from production to disposal. During the production of artificial trees, highly toxic dioxins are released into the environment. Dioxins are potent carcinogens. Further, PVC cannot be recycled; these trees will end up in landfills or being incinerated, again releasing dioxins.

In addition, lead is added to PVC during its production. The PVC in artificial trees degrades under normal conditions, releasing lead dust. According to the EPA, when fake trees are 9 years old, the degradation of the PVC can result in "dangerous lead exposures."

A PVC tree has no place in anybody's home, but certainly not a home with children.

Real trees, on the other hand, help the environment by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing. You can also support a local small business by buying a tree from a local tree farm. Pennsylvania is one of the top Christmas tree growing states and there are a number of tree farms in our area. We buy our tree every year from Nutbrown's Christmas Tree Farm in Carnegie. You can cut your own tree, or they will cut one for you. It is a wonderful holiday tradition.

Finally, remember to recycle your tree after the holiday. Many communities, including the City of Pittsburgh and Mt. Lebanon, will pick up your tree and chip it for mulch. I will post information about pick-up dates and drop-off sites as it becomes available.

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