Real vs. artificial Christmas trees

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Updated on October 25, 2019

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Although it sounds counterintuitive, the stronger environmental argument is actually for real Christmas trees. Most real trees are grown and harvested on farms specifically for the purpose of being a Christmas tree. Although real trees are associated with some pesticide or fertilizer use, the land these trees are grown on does get preserved and remains green, thus avoiding its conversion to agricultural land or for development. This forested space also provides other benefits such as generating oxygen, providing habitat, and protecting the soil. In addition, real trees can be recycled after and are biodegradable. The best option is to get a real Christmas tree from a local farm and make sure to recycle it after the holidays. If you do decide on an artificial Christmas tree, keep in mind that it should be used for at least 10 to 20 years in order to offset the impact of producing it. Moreover, artificial trees are usually made of PVC or petroleum-derived plastic that produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal, which also don’t biodegrade and will sit in a landfill for a long time after being thrown out.

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If you see restaurants, stores, or other types of companies that are incorporating sustainability, consider choosing these options and make your support for sustainability known. It encourages other businesses to become sustainable as well. You may also come across a nonprofit or community organization that you believe is doing valuable work. Why not donate or reach out to see how you can support their efforts? You can consider volunteering, even if it’s only for one day, to give back to the local area you’re visiting.

Carry and use washable, reusable utensils when possible.

Many airlines are now offering passengers the option to purchase carbon offsets when booking a flight, which means you can pay extra to fund a project that reduces GHG emissions, “neutralizing” your flight. Carbon offset projects include supporting forest conservation in California, capturing GHG emissions from landfills in South Carolina, or renewable energy in Texas. Airlines are also taking measures to reduce their own environmental impact such as making planes and fleets more energy efficient and looking for alternative sources of energy.

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Using reusable bags (cloth, paper, or plastic) or hand-carrying items (if you’re only picking up a few things) both are ways to cut down on plastic waste. Many cities have banned plastic bags altogether, and some stores now charge for bags that just a few years ago were free. Even if your city hasn’t made the move on plastic bags yet, you can take matters into your own hands by remembering your reusable bags.

We tend to make too much food for parties. This is especially true during the holidays since it’s usually part of the holiday culture to make sure everyone has all the food and beverage they can handle, and then some. This excess is ultimately bad for the environment. However, tracking your RSVPs closely and keeping a headcount should help you avoid making this classic mistake that ultimately contributes to food waste. Of course, some extra food is not disastrous (everyone loves leftovers), but it is something to be mindful of.

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