Decision 2011: A Real Tree, or an Import?
BEAVERCREEK, Ore. - Which is better for the environment: buying a real Christmas tree or an artificial one? Maybe it isn't such a tough question in Oregon, a state that devotes more acreage to growing Christmas trees than any other, but 'tis the time of year many Oregonians are facing that decision. It's a choice with implications for the economy as well as the environment.
Bill Ulfelder, a director of The Nature Conservancy, says natural Christmas trees offer plenty of environmental advantages as they grow.
"They capture climate-changing gases 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, mammals, birds and insects."
On the other hand, he says most artificial trees are manufactured in Asia using polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs), which do not decompose in landfills. Even so, twice as many Americans buy artificial trees as real ones. Ulfelder also points out that making the switch to a real tree helps the U.S. economy: Christmas tree production is a $1 billion industry, providing 100,000 jobs across the country at more than 12,000 farms.
Blenda and Joe Tyvoll raise organic Christmas trees and let customers cut their own at Victorhill Farm, Beavercreek. Among the advantages of buying from organic farms, says Blenda Tyvoll, is all-natural pest control. The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association now certifies some farms in its Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farm (SERF) program.
Tyvoll adds that properly disposing of the tree can be another environmental benefit.
"People can bring it into their house, enjoy it for Christmas, and once they're done, they don't have to worry about packing it up somewhere and storing it. They can take it to the curbside and it can be recycled. It goes right back into nature again; it's composted and goes back into the earth."
Another option is to cut a tree in one of Oregon's national forests. Permits cost only $5 per tree, and any Forest Service district office will sell up to five per household.