What Do You Prefer: Artificial or Real?

I attended a holiday party last week and was pleasantly surprised to see the host of the party had put up a real Christmas tree. The smell and look of a real tree captivated me. It's been years since I've had a real tree. In recent years, I've chosen to put up a pre-lighted artificial tree believing my choice was more environmentally conscious. But a little digging on the subject has prompted me to re-examine the matter again. I don't endorse one choice over the other; but I do think it's wise to look at the pro's and con's of both choices before making a decision.

Why Choose a Real Tree?

Besides the wonderful smell and aesthetic beauty of a real tree, forests can become densely populated with fir and pine growth creating a fire hazard. Many federal and local forest service offices provide permits at a very low cost to encourage residents of the region to cut their own fresh tree from the area. Revenue is generated from permit sales and forests are maintained by the practice.

The downside for those of us in regions not over-grown by fir and pine trees, is that trees must either be commercially farmed or trucked in from other growing zones. To grow fir or pine in this region is incredibly taxing to the water table, and would mean introducing non-native, potentially invasive species to the ecosystem. Bringing trees to our region requires the use of large trucks and an excessive amount of fuel to get the cargo here. That equation adds up to literally tons of greenhouse emissions pumped into our atmosphere.

Why Choose an Artificial Tree?

Artificial trees are practical, inexpensive, and can be reused year after year without creating any stress to our delicate desert ecosystem. Most artificial trees now come pre-lit with LED lights for maximum energy savings and a reduced output of emissions. And while not "fireproof," artificial trees do not present the fire hazard real trees do.

But many brands of artificial trees are made from PVC, a material that is known to outgas toxic chemicals in the air, which you breathe in if it's in your home. Many artificial tree manufacturers come from China; again, we're talking about tons of emissions going into the air just to get the product on the shelf.

An Alternative

So should we cancel Christmas? Hardly! I think we just need to be conscientious about how we celebrate. If you love the idea of a living tree, consider purchasing a rosemary shrub that's been trimmed into a conifer shape, or consider a new tradition of making a Christmas tree from a local variety of tree that can be planted after the holidays. If artificial is what you prefer, purchase products without PVC from a manufacturer as close to your home as possible.

What have you done in your home to make Christmas a little "greener?" I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a post in the comments section or contact me. LaFleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora can offer a complimentary consultation to help you decorate your home from the holidays with sustainable plants that enhance the season.

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