A year will not be concluded without the Christmas spirit spiraling through the hearts of many. It still is the most wonderful time of the year despite the pandemic and I am certain that every household out there is already tidying up their places, scrubbing micro germs off the table, and finally putting up their fresh ordered Christmas trees from online stores.
Just to give you an overview, given the disastrous wrath of COVID-19, everything that must be moved physically now has its limitations. Even public transportations are highly affected. From having an average of 78% of passengers’ capacity boarding a bus, it is now reduced to around 50% capacity only. It indeed affected the world’s economy, especially during those crucial times where the height of COVID positive patients are at its peak. Some were really concerned that Christmas Celebrations are most likely to be affected.
In 2020, Christmas will be “very different” than the previous years, due to COVID. Most of these concerns come from all the safety protocols that the majority must follow and adhere to.
Fortunately, after months of lockdown, the situation is much lesser and manageable compared to its first four months. With that, Christmas celebrations are most likely to push through and mommies out there are already putting such efforts in decorating their house in order to bring in the vibe of Christmas.
From Christmas ornaments, poinsettias, sparkling ribbons, and glistening Christmas lights, the Christmas decorations in the house will not be complete without our popular Christmas tree. As early as September, people are already searching up online or even visiting malls, window shopping for probable Christmas tree that they could put up in their house. But the underlying question that is frequently asked by many: Which is best for the environment? Fake or real Christmas trees?
With all the catastrophes that Mother Nature is making us feel, it is normal to ask whether or not should we cut down trees and make use of it as our Christmas tree or just simply buy a fake tree online to avoid putting our environment at risk, especially here in the Philippines that in just one year an average of twenty typhoons hit the country. And just recently, Typhoon Ulysses struck the country which destroyed thousands of lives and resources in the Luzon area.
Some of you are probably contemplating on which one should we consider putting up inside our homes. On the other hand, some may find it easy based on experience, financial status, and convenience.
REAL TALK: REAL CHRISTMAS TREES
When you buy real Christmas trees, you are supporting local farmers. In the US there are over 50 states which operate farms and grows Christmas trees like crops. Real trees fight off climate change.
They add life to your holidays
For starters, real Christmas trees give off a refreshing feeling and pleasant scent – something that we cannot find on a fake Christmas tree, whether you like it or not.
They support farms in the USA
According to The Nature Conservancy, in the US, at an average of 350-500 million trees growing on the farm, only about 30 million are harvested and used as Christmas trees. Moreover, this helps in the growing business of farmers for keeping their business intact. Hence, there are over 50 states in the US that grow these trees, which makes the trees grow easily with a big population in a matter of time.
Forests are left untouched
Worrying about the welfare of the environment should not be a concern as long you are not illegally logging trees in the forest. These Christmas trees are being farmed and grown like crops. Generally, 30 million harvested Christmas trees will automatically be replaced like crops on the farm. This does not affect the forest, because forests will not be touched upon purchasing a real Christmas tree.
They are recyclable
Once the celebration dies down, these Christmas trees can be recycled and given a second chance in life. In the US, there are states which accepts used Christmas trees and recycle them for shelter to the local communities. Unlike the artificial trees which are likely to end up on dump sites.
Most cities have Christmas tree recycling programs for two to four weeks after the holidays, and many cities offer curbside pickup. Aside from shelter to the local communities, these are also used to create habitats for the fishes in the pond, etc.
First and foremost, given its nature being farmed like crops, real Christmas trees are commonly fertilized, which includes urea, ammonium sulfate, and calcium nitrate. which can cause allergies. They carry molds which irritate the skin and nose, causing sneezing and coughing, especially for those with sinus problems.
Not easy to carry and pack up
Secondly, it is not easy to pack it up like a piece of cake. You will need more than just a plastic bag to put it away, which is not convenient anymore.
Real Christmas trees are fire hazards.
Leaving your tree open without watering it for days will likely turn into a dangerous hazard. In addition, trees are easy to burn, and putting them up inside of your home, pairing them with fake Christmas lights would put your house at fire risk.
ARE ARTIFICIAL TREES ANY BETTER?
Every time you walk into a mall, especially when BER months are already approaching, your eyes will never miss looking at the displayed Christmas trees from small ones to a foot high, decorated with beautiful ornaments, making the tree look twice attractive to the customers.
Convenient to use
Artificial Christmas trees are likely made of plastics made for long term use. Some are made of flexible wires which you can bend according to your liking. Once you begin decorating, there is no need for you to chop off excess twigs and smoothen the edges to have a sleek and clean tree. It is convenient to use because you will only have to set it up and start putting up decorations easily. Also, it is not as heavy as the real Christmas trees, wherein you will still be needing help from other people to rotate or carry the tree around.
Besides, it is for long term use. There is no need to replace the tree yearly.
They are less expensive
An artificial tree usually costs around $100 to $200. Although given the price, similar to the aforementioned, it is less expensive because you do not need to replace it yearly. Unlike real Christmas trees, despite ranging from $50 to $100, you will gradually spend $500 in five years, equivalent to 25,000 in Philippine peso compared to only spending straight-up $200 that will last you for more than five years. On thrift stores, they usually sell it significantly less.
They are not high maintenance
Cleaning up your artificial Christmas trees will not be a hassle on your part. A simple feather duster can get rid of its dust, but if it requires proper cleanup, you will just have to prepare your water hose and brush the dirt away. You do not need to worry if your tree is getting moist and whatnot because it does not get affected by climate change. Moreover, there is no need for you to constantly water it to keep it fresh.
High Carbon Footprint
Artificial trees take a toll upon the environment because of their high energy-intensive production process. They are made in factories, usually from China, then shipped or sent by air freight everywhere in the world. Not only do they incur a lot of carbon emissions in the factory, but they also contribute to the huge emissions of the international cargo transport industry.
What makes artificial trees even worse for the environment is that they are made from plastic. Specifically, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. No matter how long you use and reuse your plastic Christmas trees, at the end of their life will always be the landfill.
According to The Guardian, a 6.5-foot tree has a carbon footprint of about 88.18 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. This amount of emissions far exceeds that of a natural tree of the same size!
If you do get artificial trees, be careful because they are made with ingredients that are toxic to humans. In fact, their primary ingredient, PVC, contains a lot of chlorine. This releases dioxins which are chemical residues that are linked to endocrine disruptions.
Artificial trees also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches, dizziness, eye, respiratory tract irritation, fatigue nausea, damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, and even cancer.
Aside from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, aluminum, and steel, artificial trees also have harmful chemicals such as arsenic, lead, and phthalates. Worse, there is little oversight in the production of these trees because they are made overseas. So technically, we cannot know all the chemicals involved in the making of these trees.
Both natural and artificial trees are at risk of fires. For one, artificial trees collect dust over time, which can be highly flammable. Even with fire retardants, they can still ignite.
Then they are also vulnerable to sparking from contact with unattended candles and electrical malfunctions.
Risk of Electric Shock
Especially popular this holiday season is pre-lit artificial trees. But they are very risky because they are prone to structural damages so they are usually recalled by the manufacturer. But even ordinary artificial trees are at risk of electric shock because of exposed wiring, exceedingly short wiring, and partially plugged cords.
So what is the final verdict? It depends on what you already have. It is always the first principle of the zero waste lifestyle that you should use up what you have before buying again.
If you have an artificial tree, then continue to use it. You can always put it away safely and keep it in a place that will not ruin the quality of the tree; so that you can still make use of it on the next holidays. This will help you save some money.
If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure that after Christmas, it will be recycled and utilized for better use, such as donating it to organizations or even replanting it again. You could also chop it up and use it for some maintenance work in the house if needed.
As long as you are not cutting down trees in the forest illegally, it is safe to use real trees as your Christmas tree.
If you buy an artificial tree, better get it from thrift shops that sell Christmas trees at a lower price. Buy secondhand, as much as possible, to keep things already existing from landfill.
Moreover, for those who completely want to avoid spending that much money on real Christmas trees, you can always look at your backyard and find a plant that is suitable enough to transform into a Christmas tree.
Another tip to save some money on your Christmas trees is to design your bare wall into a Christmas tree and just tape up some Christmas lights to let it glisten. This way, you did not take up much space in your home, you did not have to constantly check on the tree if it is watering or if it is getting dusty, and you do not need to bother cleaning it up all the time because it is on your wall and free from children’s reach.
In conclusion, Christmas Holidays is not centered on how much you spend on your Christmas trees and decorations neither how big the tree is. The Christmas Holidays revolve around giving and celebrating the birth of Jesus, who saved us and redeemed the world for us.
Most importantly, let us take the merriment of this season in conjunction with reducing waste and lessening harms to the blue planet we call our home.