Pine vs. Plastic — Which Christmas Tree to Get and Why!

    Those who celebrate Christmas will never fail to argue the importance of a Christmas tree. Its smell, its presence, and the traditions it inspires have created family holiday traditions the world over. However, one argument will always remain: Do I buy a real Christmas tree or a fake one? How should I make a decision between either? What if I have dogs who love to pee on every piece of nature they see??

    Ultimately, it comes down to three key factors: affordability, durability, and tradition. When I canvassed my friends for their opinions on real vs. fake Christmas trees, here’s what I found:

    My friends who had invested in a fake (plastic) Christmas tree either did so for money’s sake (“You save money every year!”), for the tree’s longevity (“You can have it up longer compared to a real one!”), or because of their small, furry friends (“We’ve had to get a fake one because of the dogs . . . they like to pee on trees, obviously!”). Additionally, they insist that fake trees are cleaner than real trees, as “sweeping up the little pine needles and watering the tree can be a pain. Plus, you can use a fake tree for occasions besides Christmas because you have it all year. What occasions those may be, I have no idea, but, hey, the option is there.”

    But, some of my dear friends would still purchase a small tree to put up on a table, which was cheaper than buying a big tree, and would keep the Douglas Fir out of the dogs’ aim. Every single one of my friends — regardless of whether they bought a plastic or real tree — admitted to loving the smell of a Christmas tree: “Pine is one of the key Christmas scents to me, and it can’t truly be Christmas without it.”

    Now, the real tree die-hards explained that even the process of “picking a tree is part of the [holiday] experience,” not to mention that “it’s more authentic than just pulling out the same old tree and sticking it together” each year.

    In fact, here’s a cute little “picking a tree” story from one of my friends:

    “So there we were, looking for a small tree when suddenly I saw one, and it was that moment of YES THIS IS THE TREE! BOOM! THERE! THE SEARCH IS OVER! So, naturally, I walked over to it and picked it up (I was all giddy and kind of selling it to [my sister] and my mom because they weren’t too sold on it yet), and my mom tells me to shake it to make sure it’s not too dead, and it wasn’t; but, then [my sister] just happens to pick up another tree, and my mom says, “Oh, I like that one better.” And little old me is kind of getting frustrated because obviously they weren’t in love with it, and they kept on picking up different trees. . . but finally this little cute family comes over and picks up the tree I had really liked, and the little boy seems to like it, but the mom just says, “No, it’s too squished and it’s not very pretty.” And [my sister] turns to me and goes, “Awwww poor tree. It’s actually not that bad!” And my mom just nods her head. So here we are, maybe twenty minutes later, BACK TO SQUARE ONE, and me all happy going to the checkout line with THE FIRST TREE!”

    Now, you must be wondering about the environmental impacts of real vs. fake:

    By purchasing a real Christmas tree, you’re supporting a small, independent farm. And, because trees are now grown on “tree plantations,” the environmental impact is minimal since the trees are treated and used as crops. At the end of the season, a real tree can be mulched to make plant food or go toward another environmental benefit. Some states even have tree conservation efforts (ways they can recycle the trees to benefit a local environmental issue) — do some Googling and see if your state has one. But, many of the real trees have been grown using pesticides. While the more dangerous and detrimental pesticides have been outlawed, please keep the danger of pesticides in mind while you’re buying.

    Fake trees, while “cheap, reusable, and may even come conveniently decorated,” are made out of plastic, which has one of the most adverse effects on the environment. The plastic used in trees may even contain harmful toxins, such as lead, and contain warning labels to prevent accidental ingestion.  And, if you ever decide to upgrade to a new tree, your fake tree can’t be recycled the way a real tree can, and it will just sit in a landfill.

    Overall, the better environmental choice is actually a real tree, and the purchase goes to support a (potentially local) small farm. And, if you still feel bad about “killing” the tree, it can always be recycled or mulched, especially if you have your own compost!

    For me, it’s a real Christmas tree all the way. Most of my enjoyment of the tree comes from seeing my cats’ initial reaction to the tree: “Why is the tall nature thing on top of my sunny napping place? Is it alive? Will it attack me? Oh no, it seems wimpy. Excellent. Time for hunts.” And that’s usually when they either pounce on the tree or start drinking its water. At least I can say that with a real tree, I’m never bored…

    Acknowledgements to all of my friends for their willingness to participate and share their stories with me, and to organicgardening.com for the environmental information. 
    A hippie-stuck-in-the-21st-century with an unhealthy addiction to pomegranates, Emily Ward spends the better part of her time spewing out short stories and soon-to-be-novels instead of doing her homework. She contributes a variety of things to Germ and is always more than willing to talk about the underlying themes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Wonder Boys.  You can reach her at emily@germmagazine.com or on her tumblr.

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