Now that the holidays are on our heels, the never-ending debate over the best kind of Christmas tree is back.
Is it really much better to stick to tradition and still use real evergreen trees — or would an artificial Christmas tree be more beneficial in this day and age?
Let's weigh the pros and cons in the great Christmas tree debate.
Straight from the Local Farm: Real Christmas Trees
Real evergreen trees look good, smell good and — once the holidays are over — can be brought to a recycling facility where they can be cut down or chipped to be used as fuel or fertilizer.
Purchasing from Christmas tree farms is not a danger to the ecosystem because the trees are not cut from the woods. Rather, the tree farms cultivate live Christmas trees each year, so there's no longer any danger of deforestation.
Live Christmas trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, thereby reducing the owner's carbon footprint. Buying live trees can also support the local industry since these evergreen products are locally grown. Artificial Christmas trees are, on the other hand, shipped from other parts of the world.
"It's local farmers employing local people, which contributes to local economy and prosperity," shared Mike Bondi, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.
On the downside, a real Christmas tree can pose a great danger to home owners who are not familiar with the hidden threats they inadvertently welcome into their homes. (No, it's not going to follow M. Night Shyamalan's idea in "The Happening" and kill off humans.)
Nothing, however, is stopping creepy little organisms from claiming the tree of your choice as their home.
Let's begin with the things that gravely affect only the tree: mildew and fungi. Not only will these things hasten the rotting of real trees, but they may also attract bugs that consider them a delicacy.
Since we're on the topic of bugs, real trees can house mites, lice, ticks, moths and stink bugs, among other insects that hibernate for the winter but wake up from the warmth of your living room. These bugs are potential carriers of dangerous diseases, and you would be in danger when they manage to hide well enough to gain entrance into your home.
Oh, we're not done yet!
There's another one that poses great danger because it is an expert at hide-and-seek. Brown Recluse Spiders can also sometimes conceal themselves in the trees, and you'll only find out that you had a "reclusive" spidey roommate all along when you end up suffering chills, joint pains and bloody urine, among other symptoms from those two little bite marks.
Out of the Box: Fake Christmas Trees
Technology has come a long way since those drab polyvinyl chloride (PVC) trees first came into production. From the 1990s, artificial Christmas tree manufacturers have been working hard at making their trees look more authentic.
Some realistic-looking artificial Christmas trees, such as those from Balsam Hill that use "True Needle" technology and those from Frontgate's "Natural Series," attempt to capture the fine detailing of real foliage as well as the actual tree shape of a live evergreen.
Many companies also offer pre-lit artificial trees (circuitry inside the tree pole is already arranged for the customer's convenience), as well as scent sticks that can be hung from the branches to give off the scent of a real tree.
So what's the downside to using a fake Christmas tree?
Manufacturers of fake Christmas trees continue to face the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint, even with technology improving.
Of course, disposal is still a major issue. Since plastic is an important component of artificial trees, these non-biodegradable products will make it difficult for nature to decompose the material.
Premium artificial trees may now look authentic and smell great (thanks to artificial scents), but no matter how close they get to mimicking the real thing, they are still not real.
Consumers have also become conscious of their impact on the environment, so artificial tree manufacturers will have to find a way to produce more environment-friendly products.
And the Winner is...
The great Christmas tree debate all boils down to the authenticity of real trees versus the convenience of artificial ones, and the health hazards posed by mildew, fungi and bugs from live trees versus the carbon footprint and non-biodegradable trash from plastic Christmas trees.
The choice a consumer makes depends on whether they value tradition or practicality. In the end, a smart buyer will consider all angles before deciding on their evergreen masterpiece.