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Christmas tree recycling Tag

Safety of Real vs. Artificial Trees & Plants

TreeScapes Inherently Fire Retardant Quality Product

Our article series about real vs. artificial trees and plants has covered:

 

 

We can’t discuss real trees/plants versus artificial ones without mentioning the safety concerns. There are two main concerns: poisonous species, and fire hazards. Christmas trees and plants are often a concern for both of these problems.

 

Most varieties of real Christmas trees – firs and pines in particular – are mildly toxic if a small amount is consumed. This is definitely more of a concern for pets than people, but there have been cases of babies and toddlers ingesting tree oil or needles. These needles aren’t designed to be digested and they can cause internal punctures, irritation, and distress.

 

Christmas tree water is also a health concern for babies and animals. The water in the stand may contain fertilizer, bacteria, or mold. It can also catch the oils and needles from the tree, making the container even more toxic.

 

Just about every popular holiday plant and flower is toxic to cats and dogs. Mistletoe, poinsettias, holly, amaryllis flowers, lilies, daffodils, and Christmas cacti are all dangerous to keep in a home with pets. They can cause problems that range from very mild to completely lethal. Chewing on a fir tree might cause your dog or cat to drool excessively, but just a few bites of a Christmas lily can result in death.

 

Most varieties of dry, living plants and trees can be flammable, but Christmas trees are the biggest fire risk each year. ABC News recently published an article titled “Nearly 160 fires per year started by Christmas trees, report claims”. They note that:

 

“Forgetting to keep your Christmas tree watered could have deadly consequences, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

 

According to the NFPA, nearly 160 house fires per year are sparked by Christmas trees. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 15 injuries, and $10 million in direct property damage annually, the NFPA said.”

 

It’s important to note that only 2/3 of these fires involved natural trees. Artificial Christmas trees can also be fire hazards. Most holiday tree fires are caused by “electrical distribution or lighting within the tree”. Many others were due to placement near a heat source, such as a candle or space heater.

 

That’s why it’s extremely important to choose the right location and decorations for your Christmas tree. It should be placed in an open area with at least three feet of space around it, away from lights, appliances, or electrical equipment.

 

Be sure to select fire-safe Christmas tree lights and use surge protectors appropriately. Common sense measures are important also. Decorating a tree with real lit candles, for example, is a bad idea.

 

You can and should look for fire resistant artificial Christmas trees. Not all brands or styles come in this option, but it should be a priority to consider when shopping. Here at TreeScapes & PlantWorks we are vigilant about potential fire hazards. The majority of our trees are made with our UltraLeaf-IFR®, (Inherently Fire Retarding) artificial foliage.

 

We do make artificial pine, scotch, and fir trees, but we don’t specifically create Christmas trees. So, you shouldn’t expect to find our proprietary foliage on artificial holiday trees.

 

Look for words like “fire resistant”, “fire retardant”, and “fire safe” when shopping. Keep in mind, though, that these can all still be flammable. The risk is just reduced.

 

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a product safety testing organization, initiated new standards for Christmas trees in 2010. Now, you can look for the UL mark on the tree box and product description. This indicates that the tree is certified by UL for fire and electrical hazards. You can also find Christmas lights that have passed their tests and have the UL mark on their packaging.  

 

No matter what you prefer, real or artificial trees and plants, there are safety concerns to keep in mind. Ultimately, though, there are options so that everyone can enjoy their favorite greenery, and keep the whole family safe. 

 

TreeScapes & PlantWorks are commited to helping the environment, one tree at a time. That’s why we will donate to have at least one tree planted for every fabricated, replica, or preserved tree we sell!

 

We’ve partnered with the charitable organization One Tree Planted to do our part for the planet. Visit their website to see how you can help with their reforestation efforts too.

Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

In this article series we’ve discussed the environmental drawbacks of city trees, artificial trees and water conservation efforts, and regulated plants and trees. There’s another area where the real versus artificial debate comes up a lot – Christmas trees.

 

The logical assumption is that cutting down a live tree has to be better for the environment than purchasing an artificial Christmas tree. This is largely true, but there are some surprising factors that can change the expected outcome.

 

The most environmentally friendly options are living trees that are harvested from tree farms and replanted after the holidays. This method still uses many resources and can have a negative environmental impact, though.

 

We don’t usually consider the gas we use to drive to and from a Christmas tree farm, or what is required to grow and sustain the trees, or the bundling/packaging materials utilized in transporting the tree. These things, however, all contribute to the overall eco footprint of a live Christmas tree.

 

The next best choice is a live tree – from a farm – that is disposed of in an ecologically responsible way. Most cities offer tree recycling programs, which grind down trees into wood chips that can be used for mulch, insulation, and soil erosion barriers. Trees can also be placed in backyards and private ponds to return nutrients to the earth and provide habitats and feeding areas for wildlife. DIY types can even use their Christmas tree trunk and foliage for making furniture, crafts, and decor!

 

Burning trees, or disposing of them in landfills, is not recommended. Burning a tree returns its carbon content to the air as carbon dioxide. When added to landfills, trees decompose and return to the environment as methane. Both of these end results can completely negate any ecological benefits from utilizing real trees versus fake ones.

 

There are even situations where artificial trees are the more environmentally friendly choice. It all comes down to the lifespan of the tree.

 

In 2018, the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) did a comprehensive study titled “Life Cycle Assessment: Comparative LCA of the Environmental Impacts of Real Christmas and Artificial Christmas Trees”. They found that 4.7 years is the crucial timeframe:

 

“Given the quantification of environmental impacts across both of the trees’ life cycles, a comparative assertion shows the breakeven point between the two trees is 4.7 years.

 

That is to say an artificial tree purchased and used for at least 4.7 years demonstrates a lower contribution to environmental impact than 4.7 real Christmas trees purchased over 4.7 years.

 

This assertion considers all end of life scenarios for the real Christmas tree, and assumes that a customer of an artificial tree would purchase the tree and keep it for 5 or more years.

 

The breakeven point can change based on the environmental metrics and end-of-life scenarios, but considering the most conservative calculations, purchasing an artificial tree and keeping it for 4.7 years is less environmentally impactful than purchasing the equivalent amount of real Christmas trees.”

 

To summarize, here’s how the real vs. artificial Christmas tree options rank in terms of eco-friendliness:

 

  1. Live tree from Christmas tree farm, repotted and kept alive all year
  2. Artificial Christmas tree kept and used at least five years
  3. New tree from a Christmas tree farm every year, recycled or placed outdoors afterwards
  4. Wild tree cut from forest, recycled or placed outdoors afterwards
  5. New tree from a Christmas tree farm every year, disposed of in landfill or bonfire

 

Cutting down trees from forest areas is not recommended, due to extreme deforestation worldwide. It’s not a concern in many areas, but the Earth needs as many living planted trees as possible.

 

TreeScapes & PlantWorks are commited to helping the environment, one tree at a time. That’s why we will donate to have at least one tree planted for every fabricated, replica, or preserved tree we sell!

 

We’ve partnered with the charitable organization One Tree Planted to do our part for the planet. Visit their website to see how you can help with their reforestation efforts too.