'Tis the weekend for holiday decorating, and with it comes a flurry of articles about how Christmas trees are good or bad for the environment. The discussion is similar to the perpetually unsettled argument about paper versus plastic: the former is biodegradable but involves cutting down trees, while the latter is reusable but also made of PVC and other harmful plastics that don't biodegrade.
Plastic trees, says Grist's eco-expert Umbra, are bad because of their ingredients: "Polyvinyl chloride is the monoculture of the artificial forest." The decidedly biased National Christmas Tree Association agrees.
So, how to green your holiday decorations?
--Buy your Christmas tree from a local farm. Many trees are grown on massive farms and are trucked across the country. Support local tree farms, where you can ask farmers how the trees were raised, and can even chop them down yourself.
--Buy an organic tree. The New York Times writes about the prevalence of organic trees, though the jury's out on how much the pesticides on a Christmas tree can affect you. Says the Times:
“Many of the pesticides, particularly the organophosphates and pyrethroids, will break down in rain and UV light,” said Dr. Thomas Arcury, a professor and research director for the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, N.C., who is studying the effects of these chemicals on farm workers. “Some residues would probably remain, just as they remain on the food we eat. How much that is — how dangerous that is — nobody knows.”
--Make all-natural decorations. Kids can string cranberries, popcorn or paper links to make garlands that can be composted after New Year's.
--If you're concerned about cutting down a tree, start a new holiday tradition and plant a new tree every year.