In many of my blog posts, I like to address some of my readers’ most burning green questions. This one from Katie is very timely for the holidays:
Which is better for the environment – a fake tree or a real one? I’ve heard that fake is better because it’s reusable and takes fewer resources to produce. But isn’t all that plastic bad for the planet?
Well Katie, don’t get me started about trees – how much we need them, how important it is to appreciate them, plant them and save them.
But the quick answer to your question is this:
It’s better to get real.
In theory, fake trees might seem greener because they are “reusable” and don’t require water to grow or maintain. They can also save on gas if you would have driven long distances to fetch a real tree.
But in reality, faux ain’t the way to go. Artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (aka PVC or vinyl), one of the most hazardous forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic. They can’t be recycled, and most are only used for four years before they land in the landfill, where they promptly begin languishing for centuries. In addition, the ladies at Celebrate Green will tell you that “…artificial trees off-gas while they’re in your home, and many contain lead, a powerful neurotoxin that can flake off onto the floor, gifts, or hands that touch it. Not healthy for your family or for the Earth… “
Real trees, on the other hand, can be composted or recycled into mulch. They don’t pollute the air, groundwater or earth like their artificial twins. And they do lots of other really nice things like:
- Make oxygen, which is, um, kinda important for most of us. They also clean the air by absorbing pollutants and filtering particulates.
- Combat the greenhouse effect by absorbing and locking away CO2.
- Save water by slowing lawn and groundwater evaporation and increasing atmospheric moisture. They also help prevent water pollution by filtering rain runoff and groundwater.
- Make food. Nuts, seeds, fruits, berries…yum!
- Tame anxiety, depression, ADD, hypertension, and other ills of modern society. Just the sight of a little ol’ tree helps hospital patients heal and schoolchildren chill out. (See my post on Nature Deficit Disorder)
Basically trees are a one-stop natural solution to climate change, air pollution and human health and happiness!
We literally cannot live without them, but trees are quickly disappearing – dying from disease and being replaced by mono-crops, factory farms, and condo complexes.
If you like having trees around, too, and want to see more of them in the future, here are four things you can do right now:
- Save a Tree Choose recycled paper whenever possible. Or avoid paper products by printing fewer documents, using cloths instead of paper towels, reusing gift wrap. You can even get tree-free toilet paper!
- Plant one Tree…. Plant some trees in your yard, and give one as a gift.
- …or a Whole Lot of Trees! Offset your carbon footprint, and grow a tiny forest anywhere
- Hug a Tree Get out into nature – go for a hike, get your hands dirty….heck, give a tree a nice holiday hug. If we take the time to appreciate nature, we are much more likely to take good care of her.