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Fake vs. Real Christmas Trees? You Might be Surprised at This Answer

December 5, 2011

BOSTON - Many Bay Staters are deciding whether to buy a fake or real Christmas tree. It's a choice that has environmental and economic effects, according to Bill Ulfelder with The Nature Conservancy.

Ulfelder says natural Christmas trees provide major environmental benefits, like capturing global warming emissions and preventing erosion. Currently, twice as many Americans buy artificial trees, but those usually come from Asia, Ulfelder says, where they are made using polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs).

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

The environmental benefits of real Christmas trees are legion, Ulfelder says.

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

Making the switch to a real tree not only helps the environment, it also helps the economy, because natural Christmas tree production is a $1 billion industry providing 100,000 U.S. jobs. There are more than 12,000 Christmas tree farms nationwide and more than 100 in Massachusetts, so tree buyers help farmers by buying a native tree, Ulfelder adds.

"My family and I, we're always looking to make sure we get a local tree. The other thing that's starting to happen is more and more organic Christmas trees - trees produced with no pesticides or herbicides, which is also better for the environment."

The Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association says one acre of Christmas trees provides enough fresh oxygen for 18 people.

The Nature Conservancy Christmas Tree Shopping Guide is online at www.nature.org/ourinitiatives.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MA