Whether you trek out into the cold in pursuit of the perfect live Christmas tree or pull a box from your attic to assemble an artificial one, both have pros and cons. Artificial trees, originally made by a toilet brush company in the 1930s, are today mostly made from PVC plastics with around 80 percent being manufactured in China. Although artificial trees do offer some conveniences, such as yearly use, not having to water and no pine needles on the floor to sweep up, they are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. Once disposed in a landfill they will remain there for centuries to come. One tip is that if you plan to purchase an artificial tree, shop at secondhand stores first. This is a great alternative to sending an artificial tree to the landfill and may save you money.
Real trees can be recycled or “treecycled” after the holidays. Many communities offer services where trees can be taken and turned into mulch. Tree farms also absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and emit oxygen. One acre of trees produces enough oxygen for eighteen people daily. However, tree farms may also use pesticides and fertilizers, which if not used properly, can lead to environmental problems, such as water pollution. If you purchase a tree from a tree farmer, ask about the farming practices.
The Kentucky Christmas Tree Farm Association has a list of tree farms in Kentucky at http://www.kychristmastreefarms.com/. In most cases, Kentuckians can travel within a few hours or half days’ time to visit a local tree farm, resulting in fewer miles traveled for that tree to reach your living room than an artificial tree that has traveled from possibly China.