Friday, December 5, 2014

The Christmas Tree Dilemma

The Christmas tree dilemma
With Christmas ever approaching at an accelerated rate you will no doubt start to see Christmas tree sellers in parking lots, and U-Cut or We-Cut signs nailed to telephone poles everywhere. Oregon and Washington produce more Christmas trees yearly than the rest of the United States combined. Which makes sense due to our bountiful amounts of evergreens. Oregon Christmas tree acreage is in the ballpark of 63,000 acres and harvests 6.4 million trees each year. These trees are sent to various places in the United States as well as around the world. This industry brings in about 110 million dollars annually.

Many people especially environmentalists would probably weep at the numbers stated above but the Christmas Tree industry is actually quite sustainable and is much less invasive on the environment than most other crops. Due to the nature of the trees which have anywhere from a 7 to 9 year growing cycle chemical intervention has been found to harm the end product so growers generally shy away from such things. Growers only trim the trees to give them the nice conical shape we love and keep the ground clear to prevent weeds from stealing nutrients. During their growth cycle the trees are able to provide habitat for birds and other species. After harvest trees are replanted and the cycle continues. Another nice thing is with U-Cut farms, where you go and pick out your tree and cut it down yourself, is that there is no clear cutting. Trees are picked here and there, leaving plenty of trees to do what they do best, make oxygen. The trees contribute to green space eating up all that nasty carbon and can be recycled by being turned into mulch to increase sustainability.

What about artificial trees though you must be asking? Surely those have to be better for the environment. Yes artificial trees are good because you’re not chopping down a tree. However they are mostly all produced in China where they use PVC plastics which lead to a huge carbon footprint in their production. To balance out the horror that goes into making an artificial tree you need to use it for 10 years before carefully recycling it. Anything short of that 10 year mark and its actually better to cut down a real tree, and if I know anything it’s that most things built in China hardly last a decade.
Skyler Finney
Finney@pdx.edu
Sources:
http://www.christmasforest.co.uk/sustainability


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