Color Christmas Red and Green-er

Monday, December 16, 2013


Though recent media accounts report that Christmas tree farmers are facing challenges like a fungal disease that attacks evergreens in some states, and droughts or flooding in others, the good news is that these conditions shouldn’t affect supply in most areas, at least for this season. And while choosing a real or artificial tree ultimately often depends on lifestyle, overall, buying a real Christmas tree is a great way for an average person to make a positive difference in terms of climate change, according to plant biologist Clint Springer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology.

“A study as recent as 2009 (Ellipsos) concluded that a 7-foot cut tree’s impact on climate is 60 percent less than a 7-foot artificial tree used for six years,” Springer says. “Cut trees may not be carbon-neutral, but in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees.”

Springer adds that though purchasing real or live trees is a boon for the environment, not every family can make that choice. “Some might live in areas where they don’t have access to real trees; the trees might be too costly; or they might prefer the low-maintenance aspects of an artificial tree,” he says.

If buying a real tree is not an option, Springer offers other sustainable holiday options:

  • Consider using LED lights to decorate the house. A typical 50-light strand of C7 bulbs, often used for outdoor lighting, uses approximately 99 percent more energy than an LED strand of the same number of lights.
  • Buy local and sustainably farmed produce for holiday gatherings. This lessens the use of fossil fuels for transportation, cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions, a major contributor to global climate change.
  • Buy organic produce. Though pricey, buying organic produce is an excellent choice for party season. Organic food is not farmed with artificial fertilizers, which require a tremendous amount of fossil fuels to produce.
  • Recycle whenever possible. Consider using wrapping paper or boxes made from recycled material and be sure to recycle them once gift giving is over.

Springer studies the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on the growth and development of plants. He can be reached for comment at 610-660-3432, at, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-3240.

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