The Christmas tree: it’s a quintessential part of the holiday season. But it turns out not all festive trees are made equal — at least not when it comes to environmental friendliness.
So, which is better for the planet — a freshly cut tree or a fake one?
The short answer, which may come as a surprise to some, is a real tree. But it’s actually more complicated than that.
It ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including how far you drive to get your evergreen and how you dispose of it at the end of the holidays ― and, if you choose an artificial tree, how long you end up using it.
Here’s an explainer on how to make the more Earth-friendly choice this Christmas season:
1 If you choose an artificial tree, you need to use it for a very long time
An artificial tree needs to be reused for many years to make it more environmentally friendly than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. According to forester Bill Cook, a fake tree would have to be used for more than eight to nine years. A 2009 study out of Montreal, however, concluded it would take more than 20 years of use to make it a more eco-friendly choice.
Artificial trees have “three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than natural trees,” said the study, conducted by the consulting firm Ellipsos.
2 Most fake trees are made from toxic, non-recyclable materials
Artificial Christmas trees are made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a non-recyclable plastic. PVC has been linked to adverse health and environmental impacts. Fake trees may also be manufactured with lead and other toxic additives.
There are artificial trees on the market that are not made from PVC. Polyethylene plastic (or PE) trees are said to be a less toxic option.
3 If you’re going to buy artificial, choose domestic
More than 85 percent of artificial Christmas trees in the U.S. are imported from China, significantly enlarging their carbon footprint.
If you’re opting for a fake tree, aim to buy one with a “Made In USA” label.
4 Similarly, if you’re buying a real tree, go local
Minimize the number of miles driven to get your Christmas tree. Research shows that driving to get your tree often has more environmental impact than the tree itself.
“If you pick up a real tree close to your home or pick it up on a trip you were going to make anyway, the impact of the real tree is almost nil,” Bert Cregg, a horticulture expert at Michigan State University, told HuffPost.
Buying local also means supporting your community’s growers and businesses, as well as preserving local farmland.
The Christmas Tree Farm Network maintains a comprehensive list of farms in the U.S., organized by state.
5 Real Christmas trees are grown specifically for that purpose
“You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s University, told The New York Times in an earlier interview. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for that purpose.”
6 Christmas tree farms can serve as a habitat for local wildlife
About 350 million trees grow on Christmas tree farms in the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. About 30 million of these trees are harvested annually.
These farms have environmental costs of their own, noted Thomas Harman, who sells artificial Christmas trees. “If you use an artificial tree for 10 years, you need 10 trees, and that is 70 years’ worth of growing trees,” he told Weather.com in 2013. “You have 70 years of water and pesticide consumption.”
Researchers say, however, that pesticides aren’t actually too much of an issue on Christmas tree farms.
“If you look at the continuum of chemical use in U.S. agriculture, Christmas trees production certainly ranks on the low end,” Cregg told Mother Jones in an earlier interview.
Christmas tree farms can also serve as important habitats for local birds, insects and other wildlife.
7 Real trees can be composted or recycled
Don’t just chuck your used Christmas tree in the trash after the holidays. Repurpose or recycle it!
Many towns and cities have curbside pick-up options for recycling Christmas trees, or recycling drop-off centers. Some also offer tree mulching and chipping programs, allowing residents to recycle their trees and take home a free bag of mulch for their garden.
Feeling handy? You can also turn your tree into a DIY project. Create coasters and decorations with the branches and trunk of your tree. Or make some Christmas-scented potpourri.
The bottom line
All things being equal, it seems real Christmas trees are better for the health of the Earth ― and of your family. But depending on a variety of factors, either option can be a good choice.
If you have an artificial tree, reuse it for at least a decade and consider choosing a domestically manufactured, non-PVC option. If you want a real tree, get one close to where you live, and recycle or compost it when the season is over.
It’s a question that physicists, philosophers, and science fiction writers have pondered for decades: how to travel from one place to another without travelling through the space in between.
Now a Kremlin-backed research program is seeking to make the teleportation technology behind Captain Kirk’s transporter a reality.
A proposed multi-trillion pound strategic development program drawn up forVladimir Putin would seek to develop teleportation by 2035.
“It sounds fantastical today, but there have been successful experiments at Stanford at the molecular level,” Alexander Galitsky, a prominent investor in the country’s technology sector, told Russia’s Kommersant daily on Wednesday. “Much of the tech we have today was drawn from science fiction films 20 years ago.”
The Star-Trek style target is listed in the National Technological Initiative, a state-sponsored strategic development plan designed pour investment into research and development sector in a number of key sectors.
The $2.1 trillion (£1.4 trillion) “road map” for development of the cybernetics market to 2035 also includes developing a Russian computer programming language, secure cybernetic communications, quantum computing, and neural interfaces (direct connections between computers and human brains), Kommersant reported.
The goal is not as outlandish as it might seem.
In 2014, scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands showed for the first time that it was possible to teleport information encoded into sub-atomic particles between two points three metres apart with 100% reliability.
While teleportation remains a remote prospect, experts believe significant progress in quantum computing and neural interfaces is likely in the next few decades.
The program appears to be part of a new Kremlin drive to boost Russia’s IT sector and high-tech economy.
Mr Putin heaped praise on Russia’s IT sector earlier this week when he met a team of programmers from St Petersburg state university who won the 2016 international “programming olympiad.”
Russia has a talented programming community and a small but vibrant software sector that has produced several successful IT companies, including Yandex and Kaspersky Labs.
Western governments also believe Russia has leveraged its computing talent to put together one of the most fearsome state-sponsored hacking and cyber-warfare programs on the planet.
The X-Seed 4000 is the tallest buildingever fully envisioned, meaning that the designs for the building have been completed. The idea was initially created and developed by Peter Neville. Its proposed 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) height, 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) wide sea-base, and 800-floor capacity could accommodate 500,000 to 1,000,000 inhabitants. This structure would be composed of over 3,000,000 tons of reinforced steel.
It was designed for Tokyo, Japan by the Taisei Corporation in 1995 as a futuristic environment combining ultra-modern living and interaction with nature. Methods of transportation within the X-seed would most likely include MagLev trains.
The X-Seed 4000 “is never meant to be built,” says Georges Binder, managing director of Buildings & Data, a firm which compiles data banks on buildings worldwide. “The purpose of the plan was to earn some recognition for the firm, and it worked.”
Unlike conventional skyscrapers, the X-Seed 4000 would be required to actively protect its occupants from considerable air pressure gradations and weather fluctuations along its massive elevation. Its design calls for the use of solar power to maintain internal environmental conditions. Also, the proposed area is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is the most active volcano range in the world, so the X-Seed 4000 would be subject to tsunamis and earthquakes. The Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid (proposed in 2007, also planned for Tokyo, Japan) faces most of the same problems.
A sea-based location and a Mount Fuji shape are some of this building’s other major design features — the real Mount Fuji is land-based and is 3,776 m (2.35 miles) high, 224 m shorter than the X-Seed 4000. The X-Seed 4000 is projected to be twice the height of the Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid at 2,004 m. Other projects that may be in the top five man made structures are the Ultima Tower (3,218 m), Dubai City Tower(2,400 m) and the Bionic Tower (1,228 m) in either Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Some estimate that the cost to construct the X-Seed 4000 may be somewhere between US$300–900 billion, in 2006 dollars ($353.00–$1.06 thousand billion in 2016).