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Going Green: The Great Christmas Tree Debate

Adventurer B

The holidays are behind us, and if 2012 is starting out as busy for you as it seems to be for me, Christmas is already a distant memory.  But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start planning for next year – I am sure the year is going to fly by!  A question we get often into the Green mailbox is the one about the Christmas tree:  Is it more environmentally friendly to buy a live tree or buy a fake tree to use year after year?  So, I set out in search of an answer and checked out a lot of earth-friendly websites.  The consensus seems to be to go with a live tree year after year.  Here are just a couple of reasons why from

  • The durability and convenience of fake Christmas trees may make them more attractive than the alternative of buying a new tree every year, but a life-cycle analysis conducted in Canada found that you'd need to use your fake tree for 20 years for it to be considered more environmentally friendly than your yearly evergreen.
  • Hardly any Christmas trees come from forests anymore. Virtually all of them are grown on plantations, and those plantations are located in all 50 states, making fresh Christmas trees easy to find locally. Buying real trees helps support small local farmers, and at the end of the holiday season, the trees can be mulched up and used to feed plants or find some other environmentally friendly purpose. In Louisiana, conservation groups use leftover Christmas trees to bolster coastal wetlands that have been eroded by hurricanes, and in Illinois, they are used to provide nesting habitats for herons.

Whole Life Magazine suggests that the greenest choice Is to keep a live plant that you can decorate year after year.  Something we have done in my family is another option  -  buy a potted pine tree and plant it after its served its holiday purpose.  We’ve even added little signs that mention which year the tree was from – 1998 is growing like gang busters while 2004 is looking a little small.   

I hope this helps answer the great Christmas tree debate.  For those of you who used live trees this year and waited the 12-days of Christmas before taking down your decorations, check out for places where you can recycle that tree; also, Home Depot takes live trees for recycling.

Let us know what you do by commenting below.  If you have a tip for working, living, or celebrating Green, let us know at

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