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How to Choose the Greenest Christmas Tree

Greening your Christmas Tree

If you want to go even greener with your Christmas Tree purchase, there are a variety of other options available to you.
1. Buy  a live, potted tree. My family has done this for years. Most pine trees can live for many years in a pot or you can replant the tree in your yard. This is also an option for those living in high-rises which often have rules against bringing cut Christmas trees up and down in the elevators.
2. Decorate something else. For years this was a Fica tree at our house. My high-rise living neighbors once made a huge paper tree that they taped to their wall and decorated. I know others who adopted a living tree outside and decorated it with real popcorn, dried fruits, and other bird goodies.
3. Rent a tree! Why own a tree that you will only use for three weeks? In B.C. (and many other places) you can rent. For $100 or more  a full-size tree is delivered to you and then taken away after the holidays where it is cared for until the next Holiday Season. Or, in the case of at least one company–Carbon Sync–you rent a cut tree that becomes a carbon-capturing, soil-enriching biochar.

4. Cut your own tree (you need to get appropriate permits)and, then,

5. Buy carbon off-sets equal to that of your cut tree. There is the carbon in the tree itself—which is used to grow the tree—as well as the carbon footprint of the delivery and pick up, which Carbon Sync puts at about 10 kg in total.

The Great Real vs. Plastic Christmas Tree Debate

Cut down a tree or invest in a whole lot of plastic to celebrate this holiday?  Whereas once environmentalist touted saving a tree by buying plastic, now the green sentiment is in favour of the real. Indeed, my research shows that live trees are by far the greener choice.

Christmas Tree Collage

What’s wrong with that fake tree?

The biggest problem with that fake tree is that it is made of plastic. Not just any plastic, but arguably the worst of all plastics: polyvinyl chloride aka PVC. PVC has gotten such a bad name because it releases the super-toxin dioxin and contains both lead and phthalates. Both of these probably neurotoxins can release into the environment of your home from your tree.

Although your PVC tree can last for Christmas after Christmas, it is not recyclable nor biodegradable, which which means the plastic will basically remain in the landfill forever. Those plastic trees also travel a long way to get to your home: 85% are manufactured in China.  Oh, and to top it off, fake trees are far more flammable than real trees, because they are made from a petroleum-based plastic. If a fake tree catches on fire, it ignites almost like gasoline.

Your real Canadian or American Christmas tree

If you buy a real tree in Canada, it likely comes from a Christmas tree farm: 98% of Canadian trees are farmed. There are 33,500 hectares of land used for growing Christmas trees in Canada. These trees serve as a carbon sink, produce oxygen, and provide habitat for birds and wildlife.  They also provide local jobs.

Unfortunately, the 5 million Christmas trees that are sold in Canada each year, also create a huge amount of landfill waste. If you do buy a live tree, make sure that you recycle it. If you have a big yard, you can let your tree go to the birds by laying it in the backyard where the local habitat will make quick use of it. If the local inhabitants near you are high-rise dwellers, then rest assured that most municipalities offer free tree recycling programs.





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