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Christmas Tree Decision 2011 and Benefits of Going Real

November 25, 2011

NEWLAND, N. C. - Many North Carolina families will be making the big decision over the Thanksgiving weekend: whether to buy an artificial or real Christmas tree – a choice with both environmental and economic impacts.

In Newland, "A White Christmas" Tree Farm grows more than 35,000 trees. The evergreens, planted on steep hillsides, help with erosion and provide a livelihood for farm owner Nadine White and her family.

"It is something that helps our economy. I've got workers that are not full-time employees, and a lot of people are laid off now. Just what little bit we do, it helps."

After the holidays, White says cut Christmas trees can be turned into mulch or even placed in ponds to enhance fish habitat.

Bill Ulfelder of The Nature Conservancy says most 'fake' trees are manufactured abroad using polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs), making them energy-intensive to produce and ship. Their useful life is six or seven years, and they don't biodegrade in landfills. On the other hand, he says natural Christmas trees provide major environmental benefits, including capturing global-warming carbon pollution.

"They capture climate-changing gasses from the atmosphere, so they help abate climate change; they're putting oxygen into the air for us to breathe; they're good for wildlife."

Producing Christmas trees is a $1 billion industry that provides 100,000 jobs at more than 12,000 tree farms nationwide, adds Ulfelder.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC