Santa, Santa, lest we fall,
What's the greenest tree of all?
Mother Jones magazine recently took up the question as one of its "Econundrums" features. "Real cut evergreens are awfully Christmasy, but isn't it wasteful to grow and then harvest a tree for the express purpose of adding holiday cheer to your hearth?" writes the Econundrist.
"I've thought about going plastic: Fake trees can last for a long time. My friend and her mom have been using the same one since the '80s. And it's very lifelike! On the other hand, it doesn't fill their living room with a piney scent like a cut tree would. Then again, was there ever a better excuse to buy a scented candle?"
Alas, the Econundrist doesn't reach a conclusion, and I'm not surprised. I've seen "studies" of every sort, pushing one kind of tree or the other. The debate seems as never-ending as the diaper one — cloth or disposable?
Here's the Econundrist's brief rundown of the pros and cons:
In 2007, the magazine ran a chart comparing real and fake.
Meanwhile, St. Joe's prof Clint Springer has weighed in, saying real trees top plastic because they are basically carbon-neutral. But plastic ones, made from petroleum and destined for the landfill, produce it. Read the MSNBC report here.
Then again, you could buy a live one and plant it afterward, but sometimes they die anyway because they've been inside too long.
Whichever tree you get, make sure the lights are LED instead of incandescent; they use a fraction of the electricity. Most major trees — including the national trees in Washington, Philadelphia's tree, most of the Longwood lighting displays, etc. — have gone LED as well.