Earth Friendly: Should I buy fake for goodness sake?

By Kate Garcia
Dec. 6, 2012 at 6:06 a.m.

Kate Garcia

Kate Garcia

The holiday season seems to send everyone in a tizzy, filling shopping mall parking lots, depleting the egg nog section in the dairy aisle and filling the vacant back lot of grocery stores with the sharp, yet sweet aroma of fresh cut pine.

As we all begin to deck the halls, we are faced with the difficult question - should I buy an artificial tree this year?

The thought tempts us as we contemplate the ease of care, as needles tend to stay more permanently affixed to an artificial tree, and Fido won't be so compelled to help you keep it watered.

There are both pros and cons to buying a real or artificial tree for the holidays when we put this topic into the environmental context. Let's tackle this list step by step, shall we?

Artificial vs. real

Artificial pro: Less fuss, reduced muss. The pine needles tend to stay more on the tree and less on your flooring, making putting up and tearing down your tree much less stressful.

Real pro: I'm going to start with a pretty superficial pro. How can you beat that fresh pine smell that is the holiday season and walking through the tents with a cup of warm hot chocolate keeping your hands toasty? Yes, 33 million trees are cut down each year, but real trees are a renewable resource and can be naturally "treecycled" at a local compost site like our GardenVille. They can be contacted by calling 361-897-1500.

Artificial con: 90 percent of artificial trees are imported from China contributing largely to the carbon footprint and can contain lead and other hazardous chemicals that can't be recycled.

Real con: Ideally, real trees would be grown organically. However, since most are not, they are generally farmed as agricultural products.

This means they undergo repeated applications of chemicals including herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

Artificial pro: These trees can actually be the "greener" alternative if you keep them for longer than eight years, like my mother did. Our old artificial tree is still being used by my sister, so we'll add another three years to that.

Real pro: Texas may not be famous for its abundance of tree farms, but trucking in a real tree from Illinois (only 995 miles from Central Texas) would still contribute less to the carbon footprint than having an artificial tree shipped to Texas from 7,765 miles away.

Artificial con: When that artificial tree does break after eight years of its useable life, it will sit in the landfill for centuries after disposal.

Real con: One evergreen absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 (carbon dioxide) over it lifetime. By removing this, we remove roughly 30 million trees that each produce enough oxygen for 18 people annually.

Now that you are equipped with a little more information, I hope your tree decision is a little less stressful this year.

As for now, I will be flocking our real tree for decking.

Kate Garcia is the interim programs coordinator for the city of Victoria Environmental Services.



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