Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas trees: Fake or real

Christmas trees: Fake or real

As Christmas rolls around again, whether we are prepared for it or not, we make the decision to have a fake or real tree adorning our living rooms. There are a lot of proponents for having fake trees. One of the main arguments is that it is not environmentally friendly to cut down trees every year just for a month’s decoration then disposing of it. There are a couple of rebuttals to those that are against having real trees enhancing their houses. We will look at what a Christmas tree farm provides before the tree is cut and how the tree can be used after the season.

The typical tree for the holidays takes eight to twelve years to grow in order to reach an acceptable height for consumers. A study at Appalachian State University suggests that Christmas tree farms in North Carolina could potentially sequester 1.0 ton of C/acre per year. That helps us all breathe a little easier especially here in Oregon where there is an abundance of tree farms. Besides being good for the atmosphere they help the wildlife. A growing trend in the farms is to have bird houses clustered in amongst the growth. The evergreens provide a safe haven year around for them and as a food source from insects on the trees. The Socially and Environmentally Responsible Farms program certifies farms. They ensure the farm is taking steps to protect wildlife and waterways and conserve soil and water resources. There are a number of SERF-certified farms here in Oregon.

Okay so they are great for the environment but then we cut them down and they don’t do any further good right? Not necessarily. That depends on what we as consumers decide to do with the tree. In many communities there are recycling centers that will collect the trees free of charge. Some communities use trees to make sand and soil erosion barriers. Others use them as sunken fish feeders. In Tualatin Valley there is a chapter of Trout Unlimited that collects trees then places them at various locations to provide predator protection and food sources for baby coho salmon.

Overall the choice is easy provided we are responsible with the selection and disposal of a real tree. So go ahead and enjoy the natural look and smell of a real tree just as when you were a kid.

Matthew Hamilton

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