It is a little amazing how often we ask this question: real v artificial?
When it comes to Christmas trees, this pops up each year. We'll do a quick rundown of the pro's and con's, then get to the issue which concerns us.
Real: support local biz, no emissions in "production," can be recycled (actually, reused), help with cultivating forest growth,
Artificial: can be reused indefinitely
The con's in both cases involved the true carbon footprint - not only production use of fuels and emissions, but also the transportation, the packaging, the impact on the health of the household, the effort to maintain, etc.
It does boil down to real trees being a greener choice with some caveats - buying locally grown trees and ... how you dispose of it.
"Recycling" trees usually means chipping them into mulch. However, chipping a pine tree can be gummy and messy for commercial chipping businesses so the real cost of cleaning their equipment to return to normal use can increase the cost to the consumer to dispose of the tree. This is one reason many municipalities no longer offer this service. There's also the costs of transporting the tree to the chipper - not everyone has a vehicle for a dying tree and its much less romantic to tie a dead tree to the roof of your car, right?
Real trees are compostable, but composting requires very specific conditions - and a pile of dead trees in a dump is not quite the right thing.
What to do?
- Find out if your municipality does "recycle" trees. Be sure to follow the guidelines - "tree bags" can be less messy in the house, but that tree isn't going to be recycled, its going to be tossed to the side and into the trash. Take a few moments to do it right and sweep up the mess - you'll feel better.
- The City of Pittsburgh typically does *not* collect trees curbside - you have to take them to the recycling centers yourself. In our neighborhood, a neighbor with a truck offered to take everyone's tree - everyone chipped in for the fees. That's a great option, especially for Patch users - put the offer out there to your neighbors!
- You can compost.
- You can create a wildlife habitat but this is really ideal if you live in a rural area b/c the critters you attract may not be desirable.
So what about disposing your artificial trees?
- Is it in good condition? Donate it. Call your favorite charitable org. Take it to a thrift store.
- Can you "trim" the tree to make other things? Perhaps the branches can be a decoration or even a wreath?
- Are the parts recyclable? The post on my parents tree is solid wood. So it can easily be reused. Is the base a recyclable plastic?
As with most things green, it really boils down to the choices we make - and the effort we want to put into it. I encourage you to explore your options and make the greenest decisions you can.
It is not too late to contribute to a holiday project for your neighbors. As Chanukkah ends and we prepare for Christmas, please keep in mind that many of our neighbors are facing a holiday without enough food. Your simple donation can make a huge difference. Please visit www.tote4pgh.com and click Donate for more details.
Local drop-off spots: Animal Nature (Regent Square), EMS Woodland Hills (Woodland Hills), Basket of Pittsburgh (Robinson), Moon Community Library (Moon Township), restaurant ECHO (Cranberry Township), Home Consingments (Swissvale) and many more.
The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project collects new and gently used tote bags for distribution to the region's food pantries. We are a project of the Thomas Merton Center. Visit our website for a list of permanent drop-off spots, information on how to organize your own tote bag drive and details on our partnerships with corporations and promotional products items. You can also follow us on Twitter@Tote4Pgh and Facebook.com/Tote4pgh