Chopping Down Christmas Tree Myths

You can't save a real tree by using a fake one

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Russ Parrish
    The National Christmas Tree Association turns myths about real trees upside down.

    You might think you're saving the environment by using a fake tree. Think again, says the National Christmas Tree Association.

    Myth #1: Real Christmas Trees are cut down from forests.

    Do people still believe this? In a few locations around North America, yes, the Forest Service sells permits for people to harvest wild trees.

    The Forest Service does this in places to create fire breaks. But it’s a very tiny percentage of all trees used.

    Most trees come from a farm where someone plants them. And each year, growers plant one to three seedlings for each tree harvested.

    Myth #2: You save a tree by using a fake tree.

    Trees are a crop. They are planted by farmers to be used specifically as Christmas trees.  Close to half a billion trees are currently growing on tree farms in the U.S. alone.

    A selling point for some fake trees is that they come in a sturdy cardboard box.  How exactly is that saving a tree?

    Myth #3: Real Christmas trees aggravate allergies.

    A real tree itself is unlikely to produce pollen during December.  Also, pollens from pines are not a known allergen.

    Of course, being outdoors for years in the field, a Christmas tree can collect pollens, dust, mold or other allergens.  So can the artificial tree stored in your attic or basement.

    Either way, if you have sensitive allergies to dust, molds, etc., the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends you spray the tree down in the yard with a hose before putting up.  Let it dry completely before bringing indoors.

    Myth #4: It's better to use a fake tree because you can re-use it each year.

    According to research, most fake trees are only used six to nine years before they’re disposed. Even if you would use one for 20 years or more, it will eventually be thrown away and end up in a landfill.

    Unlike real trees, which are biodegradable and recyclable, fake trees are always a burden to the environment.

    Myth #5: Real Christmas trees are a fire safety hazard and frequently catch on fire.

    You’d certainly think so by watching the local “Action News” team on TV. Each year, many of them show a dramatic image of a tree bursting into flames, intending to scare people into watching the news. And the anchor/reporter will say, "If you get a Christmas tree, this could happen to you ..."

    The reality is that a tree being accidentally ignited is extremely rare, as in 0.0004 percent.

    Myth #6: Fake trees are fireproof.

    Um, no, they’re not. They catch on fire every year.

    According to a report from the National Fire Protection Association, 28 percent of home fires involving a Christmas tree were with a fake one.

    Myth #7: Real trees cost too much.

    Like anything else, you can find a wide range of prices, and spend what you want to spend. It all depends on what you’re looking for in a tree.

    Prices vary by many variables including: location of retail lot, where the tree was harvested, species, size, grade, who’s selling it and even sometimes day of the week.

    The bottom line: you can spend $15 to over $200 on a tree in many places.

    What about getting your investment back if you buy a fake tree? If a real tree costs $40, but you spend $300 on a fake tree, you’d have to use it for at least seven years to make up the difference.

    Myth #8: Real Christmas trees have pesticides and chemicals on them.

    There has never been a scientific research article suggesting that harmful levels of chemical residue exists on Christmas trees, and in fact there have been studies looking for it.

    On the flip side, there have been studies showing a potential health danger of lead dust coming from plastic trees.

    The state of California requires a warning label on fake trees and wreaths.

    Myth #9: Real Christmas trees end up in landfills.

    People often lament the sight of Christmas trees at the curb after Christmas, but they don't realize that many communities have curb-side pick up as part of their recycling program. The trees are not "being thrown in the trash" or ending up in landfills. They're waiting to be put into the recycling program.

    A farm-grown Christmas tree is 100% biodegradable, so it can be used for all kinds of things in nature, from mulch to erosion control.

    Myth #10: Real Christmas trees are a hassle and a mess.

    From the variety of ways you can buy a tree, to updated tree stands and accessories, buying and maintaining a farm-grown Christmas tree is nothing compared to what you get out of it. 

    Not to mention there's also the knowledge that you made a good environmental choice.

    And to those who say, "I don’t want a real tree because I might have to vacuum up needles," the NCTA asks: Does that mean you don’t vacuum normally?