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Christmas Tree Debate


Every family has dealt with it. The debate about which tree is better for the environment, which tree is more of a safety hazard, and which tree is more convenient — real or artificial? Lots of questions to explore and some surprising answers. When my children were growing up we hiked out to the tree farm to cut down the family Christmas tree. It was an outing that sometimes included the current family dog or an area festival that was going on at the time. Cutting down a Christmas tree was a family tradition, and I have the pictures and videos to prove it. Every tree was unique and smelled amazing. I, of course, had the final word on the tree we chose. Now I have an artificial tree as requested by my children who were done with trudging through tree farms when they reached their late teens. Which one is right for your family?

The first debate is which one is better for the environment. Isn’t cutting down millions of trees every year bad for the environment? No, evergreen trees are grown on farms like every other crop. After a tree is used, it can be turned into mulch. Trees that are cut are replaced by a new crop of trees. Oftentimes evergreens will grow in soil that will not support most crops, and like everything green, they clean the air. Artificial Christmas trees contain Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) and though they are reused for several years, they cannot be burned because of the chemicals, and plastic does not break down. The winner by far on this topic is the real tree.
Which one is more of a safety hazard? According to the National Fire Protection Agency between 2009 and 2013 there were over 210 annual home fires where Christmas trees were the first ignitors. I must confess that I sometimes forgot to water my real tree and it became dry and brittle, a real hazard. In order to avoid this you need to check the water level of your tree daily, and get a fresh cut tree or have the tree vendor put a fresh cut on the bottom. This allows your tree to absorb water easily. Artificial trees are not exempt from hazards. The dust that accumulates on an artificial tree year after year can be flammable as well. How do you dust an artificial tree? The biggest hazard of an artificial tree is the chemicals used to make it. According to the National Christmas Tree Association over 85% of artificial trees come from China where manufacturing laws are not as stringent as in the US. In addition to the PVC we talked about, trees tested have also contained levels of lead and arsenic. If you have a pre-lit tree you can also add mercury, cadmium, and chromium to the list of chemicals. It’s important to keep children and animals away from artificial trees and the chemicals they contain. This debate winner may not be as clear on this topic, but I still think the real tree wins out.
Artificial Christmas trees have always been thought to be more convenient than real trees. There is no shopping for the right tree every year, cutting down a tree, hauling it back to your house, then disposing of it afterwards. There is however the storage factor. It’s a large box to store year after year. That’s not the issue with a live tree. Is shopping and cutting down a live Christmas tree every year a chore or a family adventure? It’s all what you make of it.
Artificial tree or live tree — which one is right for your family? I encourage families to try a live tree that they cut down themselves at least once. Make a day of it. Walking through a tree farm in the snow is like a fun family hike in the woods, and tree farms allow dogs. If you don’t want to saw the tree down yourself, most farms will do it for you. You can also purchase a tree bag. It’s a large bag you put around your tree stand before inserting your live tree. After the season is over, pull the bag up over the tree and your carpet won’t be full of needles when you drag your tree out of the house.
How do you find a Christmas tree farm? That’s the easy part. You can search by zip code or city at If you want to make your Christmas tree hike even more fun, opt for a tree farm that has extras like horse drawn carriage rides, live Christmas music, fireplaces, gift shops with holiday décor, and even Santa. The top Christmas tree farms according to NE Ohio Family Fun are listed at The Ohio and National Christmas tree websites also have tips on how to care for live trees. Whichever type of tree you decide to get, follow fire safety rules on the National Fire Protection Association website . Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Christmas Tree Debate

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