Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Conscious Holiday Consumer: Real or Fake Christmas Tree?

Is it more responsible to buy an artificial tree you can reuse again and again or to chop down a tree for Christmas?

Last year, I bought a tree and planted it. But there is no more room for planting trees in my area, so this year, I was "stumped" ho-ho, about what to do for a Christmas tree. I went looking for answers that matched my concerns for the environment and my family's health. What I found surprised me.

I discovered most artificial trees on the market were made in China and contain lead and can out-gas hazardous chemicals into the air. Given that indoor air is likely to be two times more polluted than outdoor air, I figured why add to that risk?

I also learned that I'm not really taking a tree out of the forest when I buy a cut tree. US farmers grow Christmas trees as a crop, replanting the trees every year. No forest is cut down. If I find a tree that isn't sprayed with green spray paint (yes, they do that to make it more uniform in color) or sprayed with fire retardant, I can avoid exposing my family to more toxins. And if I chip the tree up after Christmas for mulch or reuse it in another way, a cut tree is my greenest choice.

In our guest homes, we don't put up religious or secular decorations out of respect for the many cultural backgrounds of our guests. You will find festive lights twinkling and a box of decorations made of natural materials for guests who will celebrate solistice or Christmas. The box includes a sparkly tree made of repurposed wire and crystals that don't out-gas. Now I can start worrying about whether or not the wire has lead in it...


Anonymous said...

why not make your own tree from reclaimed/repurposed materials? I made one from grapevines for our guest house in Brighton (UK).

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to read this article because I was about to go out and buy an artificial Xmas tree. Who knew about the gas and possible allergic reactions. Thanks for the alert.