Wednesday July 23, 2014


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Real or faking it?

The ongoing debate between real or fake Christmas trees
Allison Gibbard Photo

While both artificial and real Christmas trees come with their own carbon footprint, a person would have to use an artificial tree for 20 Christmases in order to break even with the carbon footprint of using one real tree.

The age old Christmas question is whether the tree should be real or fake.

Both have their advantages and drawbacks for practical, financial and environmental reasons, and many families are fiercely defensive of their decision.

Zane Jones explained that he likes having a real tree.

“They smell better,” said Jones, who is 10.

Other, like Pearl Freeman, feel that having a real tree is a way to get everyone together.

“We always go and get ones ourselves, we make it a family thing,” she said.

Others feel that artificial trees are more convenient.

“I like fake, I think [real trees make] too big of a mess,” said Aiesha Mah.

Ed Mah hasn’t had a real tree since he had a bad experience with a Douglas Fir tree.

“The needles were so sharp you couldn’t vacuum and they poked your feet,” said Mah.

However, from an environmental perspective having either a real or fake tree comes at its own price.

“Up here, both options carry their own individual carbon footprint issue,” said Tammy Hrab communications coordinator for Northern Environmental Action Team (NEAT).

For instance, according to Hrab, if a family or individual does choose to buy an artificial tree, they need to be prepared to keep that tree for a long time.

“The general rule of thumb that most tend to lean towards is if you’re willing to keep your artificial tree for at least 20 years, it starts to break even,” said Hrab.

This means that a person would have use their fake tree for at least 20 Christmas’s in order to break even with the environmental cost of purchasing a real tree every year.

The reason that an artificial tree needs to be kept for that long is because of how and what the tree is made of.

“It is a plastic. It doesn’t break down, so it is with us forever,” she said.

However, having a real tree also comes at a cost to the environment.

“The other side of that coin is the real trees are trucked in [and] the pesticides in the water involved in growing those trees has an impact.” she said.

While Hrab explained that both having an artificial or real tree comes with an environmental price tag, she explained there are things people can do to have their tree and still be aware of the environment.

“Up here, some [people] go out the bush and get their trees, so that would have a smaller carbon footprint than the ones trucked but.”

However, according to Hrab there’s one other option that has the smaller carbon footprint.

“Best option is tree in a pot,” said Hrab.

Having a potted Christmas tree is a tradition that the NEAT office has followed for the last couple years.

“We have one in our office that is probably six feet tall now that was given to us by a former board of directors and it was too big for his house and it has grown over a foot,” said Hrab.

The pine tree has been part of the office for a least four years and Hrab explained that for families it’s a nice tradition.

“You’ve got the same Christmas tree every year and it goes with your family,” said Hrab.

“You can watch it grow every year because it finishes and then it puts a sprout up on top that grow straight up for five or six inches and then it starts branching off from that. It kind of grows in layers, so it’s fun.”

In addition, to reducing the carbon footprint that Christmas has on the planet, having a tree in your house all year round also has health benefits.

“It’s nice to have the plants in the house because it helps to clean the air.”

Having the tree in your house all year long can also save time and money.

“When you have your own tree… you’re not driving it around, you’re not driving around looking for one, you don’t have an artificial one stuck in a box somewhere in your basement,” said Hrab.

While some people may think that it looks funny or odd having a potted pine tree in the house all year long, the NEAT office enjoys having the tree there.

“Once we take the decorations off it just looks like another plant in the corner,” said Hrab.

“It makes it happy around here.”



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