As consumers have grown more environmentally conscious, a perennial debate has emerged around the holidays: artificial or real Christmas trees? Consider the pros and cons before you make your decision.


 

As consumers have grown more environmentally conscious, a perennial debate has emerged around the holidays: artificial or real Christmas trees? Consider the pros and cons before you make your decision. Real Christmas Trees How environmentally friendly? Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can be recycled. And because they are grown on Christmas tree farms, putting one in your house doesn’t mean depleting forests of evergreen trees, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. However, unless they’re grown on organic farms, they are sprayed with pesticides, and fuel is used for transporting them. And if real trees aren’t recycled, they end up in landfills Cost? The cost of real trees varies. Different types of trees and their sizes also determine price. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the mid-range price of a real tree in 2007 was about $42. Advantages Real Christmas trees are discarded every year and don’t require storage. They can be recycled, and you don’t have to worry about bringing harmful substances, like lead, into the home. Disadvantages Over the years, the cost of real Christmas trees outweighs that of one artificial tree that lasts 10 to 15 years. The carbon footprint created by growing and transporting multiple real trees over the years is substantial. Real-tree tips 1. If you purchase a real Christmas tree, recycle it. The National Christmas Tree Association  provides an online tool to locate nearby recycle centers, www.christmastree.org. 2. To reduce fuel consumption, go to a local grower and cut down your own tree. 3. Try purchasing a live tree. The roots are covered in a burlap sack or placed in a pot. The tree can be planted in your yard, or you can donate it to a park  or school. Artificial Christmas Trees Environmentally Friendly? Artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC, also known as vinyl, which is a nonrenewable plastic made from petroleum. These trees are not recyclable and end up in landfills when they are discarded. On the other hand, artificial trees last 10 to 15 years. Cost? According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the mid-range cost of an artificial tree in 2007 was about $72. But prices vary widely. Trees at big hardware stores such as Builders Square and Home Depot range from $18 for a 2.7-foot prelit tinsel Christmas tree to $600 for a 10-foot prelit Frasier fir. For high-end Christmases, some companies, such as Christmas Trees Galore and Hammacher Schlemmer offer 12- to 15-foot artificial trees in the $1,200 to $5,200 range. Advantages Because artificial trees can last for more than a decade, consumers save money over time with an artificial Christmas tree. Resources used in growing real Christmas trees over the lifespan of one artificial tree can be quite large. And, if not recycled, real Christmas trees end up in landfills, too. Disadvantages Besides being nonrecyclable, most artificial trees are manufactured in China and exceed the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission’s recommendations for lead levels. As artificial trees age, they can release lead dust, according to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition. And exposure to lead is known to cause long-term behavioral and brain damage, especially in children.