By Steve Smith
As gardeners, the concept of “going natural” is nothing new. Whatever our reasons, whenever practical we tend to shy away from synthetics and instead choose natural products. In the case of Christmas trees, we have the same choices – buying an artificial tree or a real one. Here are some things to consider before making up your mind…
Artificial trees are made from petroleum products (which are nonrenewable) and contain plastics and metals, such as lead. They will not decompose once they are disposed of and normally have a useful life of six to 10 years. They are manufactured in a country far, far away, and there are transportation costs to consider. If they catch fire they can potentially release toxic fumes.
On the plus side, for people with allergies they can be a practical substitute, and they are quick and easy to set up, so there is a lot less hassle. But that’s about it in my book.
On the other hand, real trees have a host of benefits both for environment and us as well. Here is what the National Christmas Tree Association has to say about real trees…
“Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic greenbelts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soils that could not support other crops.
“As a benefit to the atmosphere, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen. One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. With approximately one million acres producing Christmas trees in the United States, that translates into oxygen for 18 million people every day. For every real Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in its place.
“Real trees are usually disposed of not in landfills, but by being chipped up for landscaping or put into lakes and ponds for small fish to survive. There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full- or part-time in the industry.”
Studies done at the University of Surrey in the UK also suggest “There is a lot of evidence that people recover more quickly from stress and mental fatigue when exposed to natural, as opposed to built-up and ‘fake’ environments.”
Adding a real tree to our home can have this calming effect. And let’s not forget the pleasing fragrance.
It is time once again to go find the “perfect” tree for your home. Garden centers are just starting to receive their allotments of Nobel, Fraser and Douglas firs. Always make a fresh cut at the base of the tree before you place it in a stand that will hold water. You will be surprised how much water your tree will absorb in the first week. When the season is over be sure and recycle your tree.
Buying a real tree is good for the environment, good for you, and good for the tree. Branch out and get one this year.
Steve Smith owns Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org