Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making an Eco-Friendly Christmas tree choice

I was asked recently by a magazine editor to sum up in a sentence or two why a farm-grown Christmas tree was better than fake, plastic tree. I struggled to get it down to one or two sentences (because the reasons are so many) but I can expand here.

From hybrid vehicles to water-saving toilets, many companies are trying to capture the interest of the environmentally conscious consumer. The Real Christmas Tree industry has it easy – our product has always been the environmental choice. The question is – do consumers know this?

In the fight for market share against artificial trees, the environmental issue is one where the real Christmas tree industry has the upper hand, but it’s up to us to make sure this message is heard and it’s been an uphill battle.

While they’re growing, Real Christmas Trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and emit fresh oxygen. They are grown on farms just like any crop. Christmas tree farmers plant new seedlings every spring to replace those harvested. In 2009, an estimated 45 million new trees were planted by North American Christmas Tree farmers. There are close to half a billion trees growing on tree farms in the U.S. alone. These trees would not exist if not planted by Christmas tree farmers. Christmas trees stabilize the soil to prevent erosion, protect green spaces and support complex eco-systems. And of course, farm-grown Christmas trees can be recycled, whereas fake trees can not.

What about the fake tree? Isn’t it better for the environment if you use something over and over? Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill indefinitely. The polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in most artificial trees has been boycotted by environmental groups.

Is the environment really that big a factor in consumers’ decisions? Yes, research shows that consumers are getting more and more eco-conscious when choosing products. Even if consumers do not recognize the environment as one of the factors in their decision, it is important that the correct facts about Christmas trees are out there.

Does anyone really still believe that Christmas Trees come from forests? Yes, unfortunately. But those in the business of farming and selling real Christmas trees have made great strides in recent years in breaking down the myths surrounding real Christmas trees.