Gain a Sustainable Advantage :: Shelton Group

Christmas Trees – Paper or Plastic?

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The holiday season brings with it many distinctive smells, none more powerful than those emanating from a freshly cut Christmas tree. As is the case with many families, my family’s Christmas season didn’t begin until we drove to the local tree lot and picked out the perfect Douglas or Fraser fir. It’s a tradition that many have questioned, especially as the popularity of conservation efforts continues to grow amongst consumers trying to live the greenest lifestyle possible.

When it comes to conservation and sustainability, I admittedly fall more into the camp of convenience. While I participate in many organizations and activities that are focused on preserving resources, my desire to have a true Christmas experience every year outweighs any negative feelings I have about cutting down a tree. Frankly, an artificial tree just doesn’t cut it (pun intended).

For anyone out there who shares my feelings, fret not – recent studies have shown that the negative impact of artificial trees far outweigh natural Christmas trees. According to the researchers at Ellipsos, an artificial tree must be used for 20 years before it would become a better solution regarding climate change. Furthermore, the average number of times people keep their artificial trees before replacement is six years – far below the time needed to justify their use.

Now, this isn’t saying that natural trees are completely guilt-free – after all, each tree is a living organism that’s cut down. That said, many tree farmers around the country are stepping up their efforts to make Christmas tree farming as green as possible, such as planting a new tree (sometimes more than one) to replace each harvested tree.

One organization that is making sure the whole Christmas tree process – from farm to home – remains as green as possible is Socially & Environmentally Responsible Farm (SERF). Their certification tool gives farmers all the resources they need, from information about protecting habitats, soil and water resources, to helping control pesticide usage and promoting healthy and safe worker environments. Farms that follow SERF’s program can promote their trees by placing a SERF Certified logo on their trees, which assures consumers that their tree “has come from a farm that has met rigorous standards for protecting land, water, communities and wildlife.”

Beyond the end of its life spent in the living room of a family’s home, Christmas trees provide so much more for our environment. For the 10 years or so they spend growing on a farm, these trees help provide clean air, protect precious soil quality, give shelter to animals and deliver many other invaluable qualities – qualities that aren’t replicated by artificial “trees.”

Keep this in mind this year (and for years to come) as you peruse the local tree lot trying to find that perfect green addition for your family’s home. 

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