Get real

Good little environmentalists have been taught that cutting down trees is bad … very, very bad. Then they’re told we sometimes have to cut down trees to save forests. (Think fire prevention in nearly every wildland area in the West.) Now the eco-conscious community is saying harvesting a real Christmas tree is better for the environment than buying an artificial one.

“Definitively, real trees are better,” said Justin Smallbridge of the David Suzuki Foundation, an independent conservation charity based in Canada.

Artificial trees are often imported from other countries, making for high fuel use. They’re also made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a type of plastic that pollutes as it’s produced and is difficult to recycle. Christmas trees, however, are planted specifically for their harvest. They typically grow for 10 years before being cut for sale. That’s 10 years the tree is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And they smell good, too.

A real tree might not be so “green” if it travels a great distance to the living room, but most trees in Northern Nevada come from nearby farms in the West. You can also cut your own in the National Forests by obtaining a $10 permit from the Bureau of Land Management, Carson City Field Office, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Carson Ranger District.

After Christmas, and before all the needles fall to the floor and start a housefire, recycle your tree into mulch at local Christmas tree collections (see Eco-Event, below).

A “living tree” is another option. They’re sold in pots at nurseries for planting later. They don’t always make it, as the ground isn’t ready for them until the spring, but many survive when kept in their containers and placed outside for the winter.