Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Real vs Fake: the holiday debate continues

Mindful Echo is weighing her arbor-ous options.

Confession: I have never had a real Christmas tree. gasp! Allow me to explain.

As I mentioned in my last post, my birthday is in December. When my parents were first starting out, they were more concerned about supporting a baby on the incomes of a schoolteacher and a grad student than there were about doing it up big for Christmas. Still, my father wanted to do something special so he purchased an artificial tree for $10 (a big expense for them at the time) and on Christmas morning wrapped up my baby self with a bow and put me under the tree.

Blah, blah, blah, the sentimentality of the tree stayed with my parents for YEARS and, though it's a sweet memory, we celebrated every season under the slanted, sparse branches of that tree that wasn't even fit for Charlie Brown's living room. It wasn't until I was in high school, when a friend commented on how tiny it was, that it really occurred to me that it was a sad looking tree. Still, in the greater scheme of things, the size of the tree and it's pathetic acrylic and aluminum branches were still fun to decorate with homemade ornaments and strings of garland.

Since then I've always had an excuse to skip having a tree- despite the fact that I ALWAYS decorate. Every year I've either been travelling or just not had the space to justify something big. I'm currently living in around 800 sq ft with my partner, our dog, and two cats. We technically could make room for a tree...but that's were the problem really arises: to go fake or au natural?

My initial conflicting thoughts as argued by the two devils on my shoulders:
Chopping down our precious trees for decoration is harmful to our forests! 
Purchasing plastic products for decorations unnecessarily supports the evil oil industry!

So, which voice do I listen to? Google tells me I'm not alone in asking this question so here are a few articles that are also engaging in the debate:

It seems to me that the best decision would be to use a living tree, one with the roots still in tact. That way it can be replanted after the holidays. I'm not sure I have room for that this year, but it's a great idea! What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear which side you take. Leave a comment and let me know how you picked your tree this year.

Image source:


CallieK said...

I'm a live tree person, in the years when we actually have a tree. I don't have many qualms about chopping down christmas trees since they are grown for that purpose and more are always planted. It's an agricultural crop for many and to the best of my knowledge there's no pesticides used!

Diane said...

We always had a real tree until about 4 years ago - and we have our own woodlot with LOTS of trees. When we put expensive cork flooring in our ancient farmhouse at that time, DH decided that he didn't want water to leak down on to the floors (would be ruinous) so bought a fake tree. I wasn't happy at first but, given my multiple allergies, it has turned out for the best. And no clean-up of dried needles required.

Green Bean said...

We bought a fake tree many many years ago and it is so convenient. Honestly, maybe the live tree that you plant is more ecofriendly but it is not feasible. How many pine trees can we all fit in our yards. Shouldn't those trees also be natives. Blah blah blah.

Maybe the better idea is, as you've been doing, to have no tree at all. My mom always decorates and her house looks amazing but I cannot remember the last time she put up a tree.

Eco Yogini said...

According to David Suzuki, and a recent research study, real trees are better (

we buy ours from the Ecology Action Centre- Organic, locally grown trees :) We're picking ours up this saturday! WEE! :)

sustainablemum said...

We have a fake tree that was given to us by my in laws they used it for over ten years we have had it for about the same amount of time. I was reluctant to take it at first but I figured that it had already been bought and well used and we have used it a lot too. Perhaps it is better to keep using a fake tree rather than buying a new one each year.

We haven't got room for it this year so we are going to go foraging for some greenery branches to drape from the bookshelves with maybe some baubles etc hanging from them. After Christmas we will burn then in our wood burning stove.

Lisa said...

I'm allergic to the real thing so I don't have a choice. The one we bought last year because the other was in bad shape (gave it to someone that was going to use it as a second tree so it was okay that it wasn't in the best shape), is at least partly PE plastic instead of PVC. It's not perfect but it's my only choice. We got a nice one and take care of it so it will last a long time.

Amber Strocel said...

I love real trees, however for years I used a fake one. My husband originally bought it when I was huge and pregnant and not up to dealing with a real tree. We continued using it because I felt that since we already had it, that would be the most eco-friendly choice.

Last year, however, as I pulled the musty-smelling tree out of storage and put it up I felt depressed. I read the David Suzuki study that @Eco Yogini referenced. I also became concerned about potential toxins in PVC trees. This year, we went with a real tree instead.

I agree that a live tree would be the most sustainable option, but haven't gone that way because of space, cost and availability concerns. I make sure to compost the tree when it's done, so I'm viewing it as a sustainable resource, and I feel pretty good about it. Plus, it smells wonderful!


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