PLASTIC, PLANTED OR POTTED: WHICH CHRISTMAS TREE IS BEST FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
Purchasing and decorating a Christmas tree to build the Christmas atmosphere at home is a must-do tradition for most families. Nowadays we have a bunch of options when we are deciding what Christmas trees to buy. But do we really know the environmental impacts of different types of Christmas trees? This article will give you some hints to help you find the best option for your eco-friendly Christmas tree.
1. Plastic Christmas trees—maybe not as eco-friendly as we thought
If you are looking for a Christmas tree in most stores, it is likely that you will get a “fake” Christmas tree made of plastic. They are cheap and durable, which means you can still use them next Christmas. Additionally, buying a “fake” Christmas tree could reduce our sense of guilt as it seems to prevent a real tree from being chopped down for Christmas. So, a plastic Christmas tree seems to be a good option, or…not?
The fact is that plastic Christmas trees are far from as eco-friendly as we thought. The material used for producing a plastic Christmas tree is called polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-recyclable plastic which can produce toxic pollutants that can lead to cancer in its production and disposal stage. Besides, as most plastic trees are manufactured in China and countries in southeast Asia, the transport of the plastic trees could produce large amount of carbon emissions. Last but not least, even if plastic Christmas trees can be re-used, a study in 2009 showed that after considering the resources consumed and health impact of manufacturing and transport, a plastic Christmas tree would have to be reused for over 20 years to become more eco-friendly than a planted Christmas tree.
2. Planted (chopped) Christmas trees—more eco-friendly than we thought, but still not the best
A common myth concerning planted Christmas trees is that these trees are chopped down from forests, which destroys the environment. In fact, Christmas trees are specifically planted and grown in Christmas tree farms. In Australia, the species of real Christmas trees is called Pinus radiata. Plantations of Pinus radiata cover 700,000 hectares in this country for industrial use. After being chopped down for making Christmas trees, new seedlings are immediately planted for the next year. The planting of Pinus radiata in Christmas tree farms also provides considerable environmental benefits as the trees reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by “carbon fixation”. Moreover, compared to plastic Christmas trees, which are made of non-recyclable materials, planted trees are fully recyclable and of no harm to our mother nature after disposal.
At this stage, it seems that planted Christmas trees obviously surpass plastic Christmas trees in terms of their environmental impact. However, we should note that although the production and using of planted Christmas trees can largely reduce our negative impact on the environment, the transport of planted Christmas trees—considering that most Christmas tree farms are far away from our living areas - could still have a high carbon footprint. To handle that problem, it is suggested that we purchase planted Christmas trees from local farms.
3. Potted Christmas trees – why not give it a try?
So, is there any possibility that we can take a step even further to minimize our negative environmental impacts of investing in Christmas trees? The answer is of course yes! We can consider investing in a potted Christmas tree. As most planted Christmas trees are chopped trees and do not come with pots, they die off quite fast after Christmas, and end up in trash bins. For potted Christmas trees, however, they are still living in the pot while decorating your home for Christmas. Most importantly, they don’t have to go to the trash bins after Christmas. All we have to do is just take off the glittery decorations, move the plant to the garden, treat it with care, and bring the plant back inside next Christmas. By taking care of the potted plant in your daily life, you can also reduce your everyday carbon footprint. A win-win solution, isn’t it?