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“Oh Christmas Tree!”


The custom of decorating evergreen trees during winter celebrations has ancient roots, with its origins traced back to various cultures and traditions. One popular theory attributes the Christmas tree tradition to 15th-century Germany, where devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The trees were decorated with apples, roses, wafers, wool thread, nuts, pretzels and other sweets. The demand for trees, in the 15th century, became so great in Germany that laws had to be passed to stop people from cutting pine branches. Over time, the practice spread across Europe and eventually made its way to the United States in the 19th century, where it became a widespread and beloved holiday tradition.

What really cemented the tradition of having the decorated tree with presents underneath in your home was an image of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with their children around a decorated tree, eyeing presents, published in the Illustrated London News in 1848. America started the trend of large, decorated public trees thanks to the electricity lobby who pushed for the first “National Tree” to be displayed at the White House to show how amazing electricity is.

By the 1960’s, fake Christmas trees hit the market. For various reasons, including very clever marketing, fake trees quickly dominated the market as they looked realistic and lasted longer. Of the roughly 95 million American households with Christmas trees in 2018, 82% of the trees were artificial and 18% were real, according to a Nielsen survey. There are so many reasons for this statistic. For one thing, Christmas trees take 7 to 10 years to grow. Some say climate change has made it more difficult for trees to grow.

This brings us to the debate; which is more environmentally friendly, real or fake trees? Many claim that after factoring in the transportation of real trees, fake trees have less of an environmental impact. However, the other side of the argument claims that real trees support local support local economies while many artificial trees are made in China and real trees are a renewable resource and recyclable, while artificial ones most likely contain non-biodegradable parts.

Whatever you choose, there are a few ways to make your best sustainable choice:

Real Trees:

a. Choose locally sourced trees to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions.

b. Support tree farms with eco-friendly practices.

c. Consider recycling options for your tree after the holiday season.

Reusable Trees:

a. Invest in a high-quality artificial tree that will last for many years.

b. Recycle or repurpose your artificial tree when it reaches the end of its lifespan.

The choice between a real or reusable Christmas tree involves a balance of tradition, personal preference, and environmental considerations. Both options have their pros and cons, but adopting sustainable practices, such as choosing locally sourced real trees or investing in a long-lasting artificial tree, can contribute to a more eco-friendly and joyous holiday season.