May All Your Christmases Be Green

Monday, December 17, 2018

The holiday season is a feast for the senses. For the ears, it’s the sound of jingle bells. For the taste buds, it’s warm winter spices. And for the nose, it’s the smell of a freshly-cut evergreen in the living room. That is, unless your presents are sitting under an artificial tree.

While there are many reasons families choose to display artificial trees — some may live in areas with no access to real trees; visiting a farm to cut down a tree can be expensive; they might prefer low-maintenance; or allergies — one justification that should not be argued is sustainability.

“A study as recent as 2009 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,” says Clint Springer, Ph.D., director of the environmental and sustainability studies program at Saint Joseph’s University. “Cut trees may not be carbon-neutral, but in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees, especially when you consider the impact of the raw materials, packaging and shipping that come with a fake tree.”

The best possible option if you want a tree, Springer says, is to find a living tree: one that comes, roots intact, in a pot or bag and can be replanted in your yard after the holidays.

“Once replanted, a living tree rejoins the ecosystem, providing a shelter for wildlife and absorbing carbon dioxide,” Springer explains.

If buying a cut or living 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 seasonal, 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.

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