In the past when I visited people during the holidays and saw that they were using artificial Christmas trees rather than real ones, I thought they were just being lazy. The only reason they didn't want a real one I figured was because they either didn't have space for a real tree, didn't want to clean up pine needles, or were cheap.I believed real trees were much better. They help bring nature into ours home and generally smell nice. The holiday ritual of going to buy a Christmas tree with friends or family members also has its charms, especially if you choose to go to a farm or a forest and cut down the tree on your own.
These things being said, I now understand that I used to have rather misguided preconceptions about artificial Christmas trees.
This past year was my first Christmas in Peru, and it's a country where almost everyone uses fake plastic trees rather than real ones. It makes sense economically. Why should people buy a new tree each year, especially when most people don't have a lot of money? I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of using an artificial tree (I hate artificial plants with a passion), but when in Rome do as Romans do (or in this case Lima).
to use my mother in law's tree, which was stored in dusty boxes in her house. No one else had time last year, so I alone had the task of putting the tree together. What I found out surprised me.
The Benefits of Artificial Christmas Trees
Much like a kid putting together a new box of Legos on Christmas morning, assembling the tree was fun. It was kind of like a game trying to figure out which pieces went on top and to the side. I also discovered that putting the ornaments on the tree was easy-- they rarely fell off because the branches were not as weak as they sometimes are on real trees. Once I was finished, I also
was able to move the tree easily to where I thought it would look best in the room.
Throughout the holidays, I found that I enjoyed looking at the tree as much as I would a real one. My young daughter
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seemed to agree. She loved having the
tree in the house.
When I finally
took down the tree, it wasn't a hassle whatsoever. It sure felt better than taking the tree outside, dumping it in the forest somewhere to decay, and then coming back to sweep up the remains inside. It was also at this point that I first thought about the environmental benefits of having an artificial tree.
It seemed taboo to even think about the environmental impact of Christmas trees, but
it makes sense that the fewer we cut down the better. There would of course be trade-offs if we all switched to artificial trees, like having lots of additional plastic around-- and do we really need that? But in the long-term, it seems like it might beneficial to create a better balance, at least in the United States.
This year I'm excited to put up our family's artificial Christmas tree. That's my message, plain and simple. If you want to try something a little more convenient this year (and the next), consider an artificial Christmas tree. They really aren't that bad.
See also: 9 Ways to Have a Greener Christmas