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How Green is Your Christmas Tree?

Have you ever stopped to think how fresh-cut Christmas trees impact the environment, or wondered if an artificial tree would be more “green?” How about a living Christmas tree?

Here are some things to ponder in the real versus fake debate:

An average six-to-seven-foot tree takes about 11 years to go from seed to harvest. During that time, trees are treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Gas-powered tools prune and shape them into the even shapes we prize – and then cut them down.

Most of the trees sold in our area are grown on farms, mainly in North Carolina and in Canada. Trucks that bring them to local nurseries and corner lots start spewing diesel fumes up and down the interstates in September.

When the holidays are over, trees pile up curbside for disposal. Where they end up depends on the local department of public works. If it’s picked up with the regular garbage, the tree will go to a landfill. Some towns compost trees. Homeowners with large yards can dump the tree in the woods and letting nature take its course.

Artificial Christmas trees are made mostly in China from metal and plastic, principally Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The best trees have dense branches with realistic-looking needles and include lighting. They can cost a few hundred dollars.

A typical artificial tree comes in three parts that snap together. Provided it’s not damaged, a fake Christmas tree will last for many years and can be recycled when it is discarded.

The third and by far greenest option is a living Christmas tree . But there are some drawbacks. A six-foot tree with its root ball weighs around 250 pounds, according to Roger Cook, landscape contractor for “ This Old House ” magazine. Getting it in and out of the house can be a challenge. And a living tree cannot survive for more than a week inside a warm home, especially with lights wrapped around it. Then it must be taken back outside and planted in the ground, which could be tricky if it’s snowing or the ground has frozen.

What type of Christmas tree do you have in your house? I’d love to hear from you.

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