For all those debating which type of Christmas tree is better — natural or artificial — we have compiled your responses and researched the topic, finding that a real tree is “greener” than its alternative with the information from a tree service company. However, we also concluded that it is better for the environment, not to mention your wallet, to skip getting a Christmas tree altogether. Instead, many families decorate a house plant or make Christmas displays out of wind-fallen branches.
The David Suzuki Foundation conducted an analysis of the environmental impacts of an artificial Christmas tree versus a natural one. Their conclusion was that, considering their whole life cycle, the natural tree is a better choice. Statistics from 2010 also show North Americans agree considering that 27 million real trees were sold last December while 8.2 million artificial ones were bought.
Keep reading for more about this topic and then explore our sustainable gift-giving blog post for more holiday ideas.
“Re-use” is one of the 3Rs, and it is true that an artificial tree can be used for several years. However, artificial trees are made from non-renewable resources, may contain toxic chemicals and can’t be recycled. On the other side, the Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association (MCTGA) claims positive environmental benefits to real Christmas trees. Natural trees provide habitat for wildlife and, during their growth, they sequester carbon, which helps mitigate climate change. After the holiday season, natural trees can be chipped for mulch and of course they consist of organic material that ultimately breaks down through composting and natural processes. The Association also notes that their Christmas trees are grown on land that is not suitable for other crops. Manitoba Christmas trees also support the local economy and do not require long distance transportation.
We have not been able to find organically certified Christmas tree farms in Manitoba, and it seems that some producers do use pesticides for weed control. According to the MCTGA, some use less than others, so it is worth asking your farmer about their practices. Another factor involves what species of tree to use. Native species like white or black spruce or balsam firs are more adapted to Manitoba’s environment and require less pesticides and maintenance. Scotch pines, one of the most popular trees, are not native to Manitoba and producers may add a colorant to keep them green through our harsh autumns.
Possibly the most environmentally friendly way for you to have a Christmas tree is to cut down your own! The Province of Manitoba Forestry Branch manages our forests and have designated areas that are cut as a way to minimize forest fires. For $5, your family can spend some time in nature looking for the perfect tree! No pesticides were used to grow it and it is benefiting the forest in the long run. Check out their Christmas Tree cutting permit page for more info (you need a permit!).
What about re-using a natural tree? Because of our climate, it is not possible to keep a live tree and transplant it outside after the holidays. Trees require a dormant period and the shift from indoor to outdoor temperatures will kill your tree. After the holidays, where possible, its best to take the tree to be recycled. Each year, the City of Winnipeg operates Let’s Chip In depots.
Interestingly, there are also places that rent Christmas trees. This one in England, has a very successful tree rental program, and people have been able to rent the same tree each year. Some have even named the tree, after growing attached to it celebrating each Christmas with it.
DO IT YOURSELF
Here’s another idea — why not make your own Christmas tree? If you have a cedar or spruce tree that needs trimming, gather the branches and arrange them in a pail of water. Tie them together in the centre and decorate with LED lights and holiday ornaments. This way, you save a tree from being cut down, you don’t buy a plastic one and your growing tree gets a nice pruning, all while you get a unique tree! Read our blog here for the step-by-step instructions.
WHAT WILL YOU DO THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?
Comments from previous years are included below. We’d like to hear what you think. Thank you for feedback and enjoy your holiday season this year!