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Take your pick: Real or artificial Christmas trees?

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By AP

With Christmas just 25 days away, perhaps there may still be some home owners who are pondering on what to put up in their living rooms for a Christmas tree – real or artificial?

It’s not possible to say that real or artificial Christmas trees are better.

Both natural and fake trees have an environmental impact. Most people don’t know, but artificial trees have a slightly larger negative impact, requiring more energy, polluting and even posing potential health hazards.

The Pros and Cons of Artificial

Guilt. Many have made it the sole reason to invest in an artificial tree. The thought of cutting down a new tree each year can put a damper on the holidays for some.

Also, cost, convenience and environmental impact are other reasons consumers opt for an artificial tree.

Given the current economic climate, artificial trees may be especially appealing for their investment value when compared with the recurrent, annual expense of a real Christmas tree. Their convenience is also appealing to consumers as they don’t need watering, don’t leave pine needles all over the floor and transportation from tree farm to home isn’t an issue.

But many experts believe artificial trees actually have a greater negative environmental impact when all aspects of their life cycle are considered.

Today’s artificial trees are typically manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. In addition, many older varieties may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process.

Despite their PVC contents, artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for centuries after disposal.

Furthermore, approximately 85 percent of artificial trees sold in the U.S. are imported from China, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), adding to their overall environmental footprint.

The Pros and Cons of Real

Approximately 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America each year, according to the U.S. EPA. Luckily, about 93 percent of those trees are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs.

Also known as “treecycling,” the act of recycling a Christmas tree is a leading reason many experts agree they are more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts.

Treecycling is an easy way to return a renewable and natural source back to the environment instead of disposing it in a landfill, where decomposition rates are slowed due to lack of oxygen.

Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways. They can be used for beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization and fish and wildlife habitat.

A single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime. With more than 350 million real Christmas tress growing in U.S. tree farms alone, you can imagine the yearly amount of carbon sequestering associated with the trees. Additionally, each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people.

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