Thursday, December 3, 2009
A Christmas Debate
Which is the better route to go-- Real tree or artificial tree?
An article in the Los Angeles Times Business section on November 27, 2009 stated that major chains such as Lowe's and Home Depot are cutting back inventory on artificial trees this year as buyers in these difficult economic times trend toward lower cost options in everything they are buying. The stores are expecting that consumers will bypass the long-term cost benefit of a reusable fake tree in favor of a lesser priced real tree.
The traditionalist will certainly opt in favor of the real tree. The smell of the pine is refreshing and Christmasy. The look and feel of a real tree harkens back to old-fashioned Christmas values. Many celebrants will even go so far as to go to a Christmas tree farm to buy and cut down their own tree. Indeed some may even go out into the countryside and cut down a tree that they don't have to pay for, a move that is ill-advised unless you are doing this on land that is your own.
Buying a real tree supports farmers here in our own country which is a boost to the U.S. economy. Christmas tree farming in the Los Angeles area is often done under high tension power lines which is land that is deemed undesirable for many other purposes, therefore this farming uses land areas that might otherwise have been wasted. The real trees are recyclable.
On the downside, a real tree can be messy as it sheds its needles over your floors and carpets. It requires watering to prevent it from drying out too quickly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration there are an average of 200 fires yearly caused by Christmas tree fires, which is not a high number, still the threat can be very real if a tree is not well maintained. If the trees aren't recycled properly they can be problematic to a community's waste disposal program. Also there is the problem with pesticides and chemicals used in growing the trees.
There is a real tree alternative of using a live tree to be replanted after the holiday. This may work fine in areas where there is room to plant the trees, but is not very practical in many urban areas or for people in large complex dwellings. The live tree must be carefully maintained so that it does not die.
Cost-wise, depending on the type and size of the tree, one may be looking at an average of $25 to $150 for a real live or cut tree. Keep in mind that is how much one would be paying on a yearly basis. Compare that to an articial tree which may average between $40 to $250 but with a lifespan of 5 or more years.
The tree that my wife and I have is at least 12 years old and probably actually 15 to 20 years old. It's been so long since we purchased it that I can't remember the cost, but I believe we got it at K-Mart for about $80. So far that means we've paid $7 or less per year and it gets virtually no wear and tear so that it will probably last another 10 to 20 years. This tree has been highly cost-effective for us.
The fake tree we have looks pretty real. Spray a can of pine scented air freshener or keep some pine potpourri and you get basically the same effect as having a real tree in the house. One has to check the tree pretty closely to realize that it's fake. Some of the higher end trees look almost indistinguishable from the real ones. When Christmas is done, you pack it up and don't have to worry about disposal.
However if you do have to dispose of it then it's more problematic. The fake trees do not break down in the landfill. They may contain lead, PVCs, carcinogens, and other hazardous materials. They are often made in China in factories with substandard working conditions, but a lot of what we have is made in China and who do we blame for that?
For ease and economy I lean toward the artificial tree. It'll probably be years before I would ever throw ours away and it works fine in our house. We have saved a bundle of money over the years.
What do you think--real or fake? Or do you have an alternative that you opt for? Or maybe you think Christmas trees are absurd and don't even have one? Let's have your opinion.