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North Dakotans Weigh Benefits of Real Christmas Trees

November 28, 2011

ENDERLIN, N.D. - With Christmas just weeks away, many North Dakotans are now deciding whether to buy a real tree or an artificial one. It's a choice with both environmental and economic consequences.

"Chucky" Hartl of Hartl Hollow Christmas Tree Farm, Enderlin, says getting a real tree is an environmentally friendly move - and she adds that, for many, it has become a yearly tradition.

"It was part of my family always to go and cut down our own tree. We'd take all our family pictures at that time and make our Christmas cards, and we'd have a nice, fresh smell inside with a fresh tree, also."

Picking out a real tree can be a family event, Hartl notes.

"What we sell more than anything is the family experience of coming to buy a tree. We've watched some of these kids from little tiny babies, and now some of them are in high school and starting college."

Bill Ulfelder, director of The Nature Conservancy, says as they grow, natural Christmas trees provide environmental benefits, such as capturing global-warming pollution and preventing erosion. On the other hand, he says, most artificial trees are manufactured abroad using polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs).

"Folks use an artificial tree for only about five or six years, so it's energy-intensive to produce, energy-intensive to ship, and then it just sits there in a landfill and doesn't biodegrade."

According to The Nature Conservancy, choosing a real tree not only helps the environment, it also helps the economy: Natural Christmas tree production is a $1 billion industry nationwide that provides 100,000 jobs at more than 12,000 tree farms. The group notes that twice as many Americans buy artificial trees as buy real trees, however, and those usually come from Asia.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND