The Christmas tree is a very popular item on the holiday decorating list and the debate about real versus artificial is ongoing. So, which is better and what happens to the tree after the holiday season? Live Christmas trees are renewable and biodegradable despite the recurring costs each season. Live trees also have shorter distances to travel before being used in your home which reduces transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Artificial trees are simply artificial, made from non-renewable resources like PVC and cannot be recycled. Oftentimes, these trees are manufactured overseas and then shipped, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through increased transportation costs.
Treecycling is the process of recycling the live tree after the holiday season. Trees are recycled into mulch which takes stored carbon and adds it to the soil. Tree chips may be added to hiking trails and erosion prevention projects and trees may also create wildlife habitat when used as bird feeders. Approximately 93 percent of trees are recycled after the holiday season so it is one way to maintain a closed loop process for holiday trees.
On average, EPA estimates that 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America ever year and live trees sequester (store) close to 172 kg of carbon dioxide per year. Many trees are grown on tree farms which means that carbon storage is a constant process beginning in early growth stages until the tree is harvested. Tree farms typically use sustainable farming practices (less pesticides and fertilizers) and trees also return oxygen to the environment. In fact, Earth911 projects that each acre of trees provides oxygen needs of 18 people. The live tree industry also employs many people in the cradle to cradle process from planting new trees to recycling used trees.
One option for holiday decorating with trees is the use of a live potted plant which can be planted in the outdoor landscape after the holiday season. This allows you to benefit from the tree well past the holiday season.
Treecycling is one great way that you can contribute to protecting the environment during the holiday season. In Pinellas, use this resource to find out where your city will collect trees for recycling or use the A to Z recycling guide.