Christmas is on its way, so some of you might be looking for Christmas trees out in the bush or out at a farm. This means you might come across the ever-popular Douglas-fir tree. Did you know that Douglas-firs are not really a fir tree? That's the reason there is always a hyphen in its name! These holiday classic trees are actually in their own group of trees where the Latin name means "false hemlock". In BC, there is a coastal variety of Douglas-fir and also an Interior variety that would be found in the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.
The debate around whether it is better for the environment to use real or artificial trees has been raging for decades. Proponants of real trees cite the industrial manufacture process, plastic and chemical use, and overseas shipping emissions to criticize fake trees, while articificial tree proponants make the point that real trees are single-use only, use pestide and herbicides in their farming, and cutting them down removes greenhouse-gas absorbing trees from the landscape.
Now, thanks to a study from researchers in Montreal the debate can be at least a little bit settled, as researchers went through dozens of factors with both trees to quantify each of their impacts on things like climate change, resource usage, human health, and ecosystems.
They found that in most categories, using a real tree beat out an artificial tree, but ONLY if the real tree was both locally sources and properly disposed of afterward (e.g. chipped or burned for heat). If the real trees were not gtrown locally, or if they were put in a landfill, they quickly lost their superiority.
Researchers did note however, that the study gave the artificial tree a life of 6 seasons before its disposal, which is the North American average. They calculated that if an articficial tree was used for approximately 20 years, it would then begin to outweigh the environmentally friendliness of a real tree. They also noted that the impacts of real vs artificial trees equated to just a few hundred kilometres of driving per year and that there are a myriad other things that consumers can do to reduce their environmental impact in their lives and during the holidays.
Whether you're Team Real Tree or Team Fake Tree, there are many other ways you can be more envionrmentally friendly during this famously enviromentally UNfriendly time of year. Check out our 'green' holiday blog posts from 2021 and from 2022 for lots of tips!