Real or plastic Christmas tree?

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 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.


Why do most programmers prefer macs?

This is an opinion by an independent game developer, so it quite unbiased, objective and honest. No influence by a company or a brand to choose or praise any computing choice:

I was a die-hard Windows user & coder. It makes a lot of sense writing code on the OS you write software for and Windows always was my primary target. I used a friend’s Mac for some graphic stuff at times, always disliked it. When I wanted to write stuff for iOS I took the easy path and bought my first Mac, reluctantly so. Also the first time for me using OS X 10.5. It took a few months and I madly fell in love with it.
Think of the Windows registry, BIOS settings, msconfig, etc. Complete waste of time and with each new PC and Windows version it felt I was doing more of it. Enter the Mac and this amazing OS.
The productivity that machine offered was eye-opening for me. It booted fast. It didn’t get slower over time. It woke from sleep in a second. Apps didn’t bog it down. No virus scanners being all egocentric with the machine’s resources. And a great screen, key when you write software.

Apple got me when I was weak, in the most convincing way possible. Now true, things are changing, Apple is making some questionable choices, MS is getting better but that’s not what you asked.
This is how I learned to love the Mac and still do. They are powerful, beautiful and overall they just work, which is what I need.


The anatomy of New Year’s resolution

Here are 17 strategies for constructing a New Year’s goal:

On January 1, we’re all in. I’m going to do it! A month, a week, or a day later, we’ve backed out. To avoid the same fate in ’15, use these tactics while creating your diet and exercise declarations.

1 – Nowadays, the word “resolution” almost comes with the understanding that you’re going to fizzle out by February. Better to re-frame the process and call it a goal. Or give it a life of its own with a name, like Operation Less-Jiggle, or The 2015 Strategic Body Re-Engineering Implementation Strategy.

2 – Vague platitudes (“lose some weight”) are less effective than specific directives (“I will set my alarm for noon every weekday for a 30-second stretch of my adductor longus muscles”).

3 – Go back to the drawing board if your resolution includes the words “more selfies in the gym locker room.”

4 – Motivation research tells us that three things need to be present to sustain your fire over time:

autonomy (you control what you do, rather than letting others dictate it);

competence (you have some success the more you do it);

relatedness (you share the experience with others).

Which means: You can manufacture your own motivation by choosing an action that includes all three elements.

5 – Resolutions often fall into the all-or-nothing category. Therefore, rates of failure increase if you attempt an outright ban on gravy.

6 – The common characteristic of exercise-quitters: Too much too soon. For newbies, three days a week in January will be better in the long run than six. Slow and steady won’t win many races, but it will this one.

7 – Trying to stick to a daily resolution comes with pressure and stress that often leads to midnight lasagna binges. Instead, try weekly metrics. Rather than count daily calories, which can be frustrating and destructive if you miss your mark, give yourself a weekly benchmark to hit. (Note: There is some debate about whether calorie-counting works for everyone, but self-monitoring certainly can be effective for some people.) That gives you some flexibility to stray, incentive to eat well most of the week, and more of a global picture for what you’re trying to accomplish—that is, eat right most of the time. If you want wiggle room in your clothes, you have to give yourself wiggle room in your expectations.

8 – Tweet/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat your goal so that you can feel accountable.

9 – Do not do No. 8 when the reasoning centers of your brain may be compromised, such as at 12:03 a.m. on January 1. #HappyNewYearImGivingUpBreakfastMeatsFOREVER won’t stick.

10 – If you want to rid yourself of your dietary Achilles heel, cold turkey can be a rocky road. But eliminating your most evil temptation can work if you can choose some kind of substitute behavior for the addiction or habit, so that you give your brain something to do in its place.

11 – Do not make the substitute barbecue corn chips.

12 – If your resolution involves a new exercise plan, make a 5-minute backup workout for times you just don’t have the oomph to complete your intended session. It can be as simple as a handful of pushups, jumping jacks, lunges, and squats (no equipment required). The point: Do something that gives you some energy, so that you don’t beat yourself up for missing your workout on days when life gets in the way.

13 – Pick a skill rather than a size. One of my favorite yearly goals came when I vowed to stand up on a surfboard (on a wave). Picking something you physically can’t do right now (run a certain distance, climb a small mountain) requires you to break down the steps that will help you get there—physically, nutritionally, mentally. The declaration of a goal isn’t what gets you to the goal; process is what gets you to the goal.

14 – One of the best goals I heard in 2014 came from one of the spiritual leaders of the Sub-30 Club—a club I started a few years ago for people who wanted to run a sub-30-minute 5K, but includes many folks who were already speedier than that, like Laurie Canning. Laurie had said that her only running goal this year was to run with as many new people as she could, including those she had never met from our virtual group. Between training, new races, and meet-ups all over, she ended the year running with 25 new people. She says, “I have never enjoyed running as much as I have this year—ever.” By the way, Laurie also completed the year doing 20,000 strict military pushups and crushed her previous best marathon time, running a 4:11. My takeaway: You can use a deeper goal to help achieve other ones.

15 – The best resolutions are also ones that you can share with other people. Recruit a couple of friends to join you (live or digitally). Report your progress, kick each other’s butts, high-five successes, hold regular meetings to discuss ups and downs.

16 – Do not bring cupcakes to those meetings.

17 – Set a date on the calendar, not a number on the scale. Find something—an event, a vacation—that means something to you. That’s where you’re headed. That’s why you’re running or swimming or getting your butt whooped by a boot-camp instructor. That’s why you reach for radishes when you need something to crunch. No, it’s not a finish line in this seemingly never-ending struggle, but it does give you a vision of where you want to go—and a few hints about why you want to get there.