Holiday Dilemma: Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

With Christmas right around the corner, more Christians this year are finding themselves faced with the difficult decision of choosing between a real and an artificial Christmas tree.

As the Christian community becomes increasingly environmentally conscious, megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Bill Hybels as well as more than 100 influential evangelical leaders, are speaking out about global warming and calling on governments and Christians to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions – the main cause of global warming. Signers of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) agree that global warming is real and mainly caused by humans.

"Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures," the ECI statement reads. "Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better."

During this holiday season, some Christians are making the decision to take what they believe to be a small but important step toward slowing global warming by buying a natural Christmas tree.

"When you buy a real Christmas tree, you're buying a tree where the environmental impact of growing and harvesting that tree is positive," says Paul Krebs, owner of Oregon-based Coyote Hills Tree Farm.

According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, each acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen for 18 people. With 1 million acres of Christmas tree farms nationwide, this translates into oxygen for 18 million people each day or the equivalent daily oxygen use by twice as many people as the population of Los Angeles County.

Meanwhile, artificial Christmas trees are typically made of various plastics which end up in landfills after their usefulness is over. Plastic trees are not easily recyclable or reusable after their average 4-5 year life span.

Also, 85 percent of the artificial trees bought in the United States each year comes from China, where the environmental and employment standards are below U.S. standards – thus increasing the potential negative environmental impact.

Natural trees, on the other hand, are entirely a U.S. product and are grown as a sustainable crop which takes many years of culturing and work to bring to the market.

Oregon, for instance, supplies roughly 25 percent of the nation's Christmas trees.

Krebs explains that most trees are removed from the fields by helicopter so tractors and equipment do not disturb the west ground during harvest.

"It also reduces time, getting fresher trees to the market," he adds. "Sustainable agriculture practice and conservative methods are important to virtually all tree farms."

Coyote Hills Tree Farm offers to send trees directly to the customer, cutting the tree just prior to shipping.

"We mechanically shake all trees to remove loose debris before boxing and shipping by UPS. We call these trees 'the pick of the field,'" Krebs says. "All boxes have a moisture control seal to preserve freshness."

Meanwhile, on the east coast a former World War II veteran, John Cooper, created an idyllic Christmas tree farm in West Virginia which he calls Santa's Forest. Cooper, who was the president of the West Virginia Christmas Tree Association and representative to the National Christmas Tree Association, was invited to the White House during the Carter administration to present a Christmas tree to the first lady on behalf of his state.

Santa's Forest says it also follows sustainable growing guidelines that protect the environment while providing Americans with their choice of fresh Christmas trees.

The company offers a wide variety of trees, including Scotch Pine, Balsam Fir, Canaan Valley Fir, Colorado Spruce, Fraser Fir, and White Pine.

In June 2007, Santa's Forest was formally transferred over to the owners of who combined their successful mail order business with a traditional cut-your-own tree farm.

In addition to providing oxygen, another advantage of real Christmas trees are the programs available in most major metropolitan areas that will take the trees after the holidays and turn it into mulch for playgrounds, gardens, and other landscape needs. Because real trees are 100 percent biodegradable, they do not contribute to landfill and waste management problems.

A recent poll by Ellison Research found that 84 percent of evangelicals support legislation to reduce global warming pollution levels. The poll also found that 54 percent of evangelicals are more likely to support a candidate that works on the issue.

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