The debate about the environmental friendliness of Christmas trees continues


tree close up
Consumers debate about the environmental safety of real and fake trees. (istockphoto)
Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | December 7, 2017

Here’s a dilemma that’s common among Christmas-observing households around the holidays: Real tree or artificial tree?

The question goes a little further than skin-deep. There has long been a debate about the safety and eco-friendliness of the real tree versus the artificial tree, with parties on both sides presenting evidence for their claims. The goal, overall, is to figure out which one leaves a smaller carbon footprint–is it the fake tree, the one that you buy once and haul out of your closet every year for a decade, thus saving on transportation costs for the real tree? Or is it the real thing, a true Christmas pine tree, an all-natural, biodegradable organism that won’t be left in a landfill?

The numbers are tricky because they’re variable. A lot of the measurements depend on how the real tree was transported to a store or warehouse, how much fuel that took, how eco-friendly the harvesting process for real trees is. Fake tree fans usually make an interesting point: with a fake tree, you save literally a decade’s worth of production.

Real tree enthusiasts have their own retort: artificial trees are plastic. PVC plastic, actually. They are definitely reusable, but once they’re discarded, they end up in landfills and in the ecosystem with other bits of equally dangerous trash that will take years and years to break down properly. Most artificial trees are imported from China, but a consumer can more easily pick local businesses when searching for a real tree.

There is a general consensus that both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Whatever decision a consumer makes, researching before a purchase is one of the best ways to give back to the Earth this holiday season.

 

 

Holiday recycling guide


Photo by sonofnels, Flickr.

Holiday gift giving can result in an excess of waste – wrapping paper, styrofoam, bubble wrap, plastic packaging – but just how much of that material is recyclable?

A recent article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette seeks to provide a bit of clarity on this issue through the following sorting guide:

    • Wrapping paper – not recyclable, must be placed in the garbage
    • Tissue paper – not recyclable, must be place in the garbage or reused
    • Styrofoam – not recyclable, must be placed in the garbage
    • Shirt boxes – recyclable with the tissue paper removed
    • Cardboard toy boxes – recyclable with any plastic handles or twist ties removed
    • Shredded paper – recyclable, place in a paper bag to reduce the mess
    • Plastic bubble wrap – if bubbles are popped can be recycled at grocery stores with plastic bags

For more information on holiday recycling, check out the full article.

On the Radio: Using vacation time to save energy


Photo by Robby Ryke, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment offers a number of suggestions on how to conserve energy while on vacation. Continue reading