xmas tree

It’s the eternal debate: Paper or plastic? And now, in the heat of the holiday season, this question becomes even bigger, literally. Your family must decide on which Christmas tree is most sustainable. Artificial plastic trees are reusable, but they are full of hazardous chemicals. Live trees are natural, but they are a limited resource and aren’t often raised environmentally. Both sides have merit and raise very serious concerns for the green-minded elf. But before you throw your hands up in defeat, check out these sustainable options for finding the perfect Christmas tree.

THE SUSTAINABLE LIVE TREE

The problem with live trees is that, like other monocrops, they are often raised with pesticides and heavy chemicals. By selecting a local tree, just as with produce from a farmers market, there is less likelihood of chemical application, as the trees don’t have to travel as far to get to you—or be preserved for the process. And by selecting an organic tree, you’re ensuring a less-contaminated tree and supporting a more holistic system. Green Promise has a list of organic trees nationwide for consumers; check them out to find a tree near you.

THE SUSTAINABLE ARTIFICIAL TREE

Should you opt for an artificial tree, be advised to steer away from the mass-produced trees available at most retailers, which are made with PVC—most come from China and overseas where standards are not as strict as in the States. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has compiled an entire e-booklet on the dangers of PVC, which include increased risk of cancer, pollution of groundwater and the air, and mercury usage and bio-contamination in the environment. Yet proponents of artificial trees prefer them to live since they can be reused for years and years, when cared for properly. Should you go this route, buying an American-produced tree is a great way to both support local and ensure a less toxic tree for your home. Good companies to explore include New Jersey’s Holiday Tree and Trim Co. and USChristmastree.com.

Image: foxrosser