Voice of the Reader: Plastic or real trees? Does it matter?

Barry Noreen Published: December 2, 2013 | 8:50 am 0

Assertion No. 1: Plastic Christmas trees are better for the environment, because while they might consume some petroleum products when they are made, they last forever, avoiding killing live trees every year.

Assertion No. 2: Using real trees as Christmas trees is better for the environment because tree-thinning helps reduce fire danger in wild areas and even if the trees come from a commercial lot, the tree can later be mulched, so the remains of the tree are put to good use.

This argument has gone 'round and 'round for years, and it is doubtful it will be resolved.

Many environmentalists say real trees are the way to go. Why?

About.com distills the debate down to a few basic points. The anti-plastic argument says that "fake trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (or PVC, otherwise known as vinyl), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of nonrenewable, petroleum-derived plastic. Furthermore, several known carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are generated during the production of PVC, polluting neighborhoods located near factory sites. Most of those factory sites are actually in China, where 85 percent of the fake trees sold in North America originate. Labor standards there don't adequately protect workers from the dangerous chemicals they are handling."

Ah, but most real trees come from Christmas tree farms, not the national forests. Considering that fact, other environmental issues come into play. The website says that "The primary downside of real Christmas trees is that, because they are farmed as agricultural products, they often require repeated applications of pesticides over their typical eight-year lifecycles. Therefore, while they are growing - and then again once they are discarded - they may contribute to pollution of local watersheds. Beyond the run-off issue, the sheer numbers of trees that get discarded after every holiday can be a big waste issue for municipalities that aren't prepared to mulch them for compost."

Life can be one huge carbon footprint. Or one can simply buy some eggnog, give public policy arguments a rest and enjoy some old-fashioned peace on Earth.

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Contact Barry Noreen at 636-0363 or barry.noreen@gazette.com.

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