Are you natural? Or artificial?

Trent Ernst, Editor


Maybe it’s the question you ask yourself every year.

Is this the year you make the switch?

Maybe you’ve had an artificial tree for years, but recently moved to Tumbler Ridge and are enamoured with the sheer number of trees that surround you.

Maybe you’ve been going out for years to get a natural Christmas tree, but are pondering if an artificial tree will save you the hassle.

Never fear, for this is also the year that your friends here at the Tumbler Ridge News are going to help you with this important and monumental decision.

First things first. Neither type of tree is better or worse for the purposes of this article. Each has its advantages and each has its drawbacks.

It’s up to you to decide what is more important to you.

In this corner, we have the humble tree. You’ve probably seen one of these before. If not, look outside. Tumbler Ridge is thick with them.

Of course, not every type of evergreen makes a decent Christmas tree. In order to find the perfect tree, people will trek hither and yon around Tumbler Ridge looking for that perfect tree. Big, but not too big, with full branches and a pleasing, conical shape.

Going out and harvesting a tree is actually the environmentally friendly option. Sure, you’re cutting down a tree (one tree), and you have to drive out to get one, using fuel, but considering the fact that the tree has spent the last few years removing carbon from the atmosphere, the impact is fairly low, all in all.

And once you get it into the house? The whole place smells like Christmas.

No matter how realistic artificial trees look, they’re still, well, artificial. A natural evergreen just looks and smells … better.

Once Christmas is over and the decorations come down, the tree is off to be recycled, or composted, or burned. It can even be returned to the forest, where it came from, where it will provide nutrients for other trees and plants. You don’t need to find a (rather large) space to store it.

However, they aren’t perfect. A real tree needs to be frequently watered, or it will dry out. If it dries out, the needles fall off. Even if it is well watered, the needles still fall off. Expect to be finding pine needles in the house for at least a month after the tree is gone.

If you buy a tree, rather than cut your own, you’re spending money on a new tree every year. If you cut your own tree, you save the money, but you pay in time, effort and hassle.

And while there are treecycling programs elsewhere, there is no such thing here, so much of the argument around environmental impacts are not applicable here.

If you buy a real tree, you’re going to wind up spending money every year to replace the tree. If you go out into the bush to cut your own … good luck finding that perfect tree. Trees grown on farms are spaced out so the tree can develop evenly. But if you go out into the bush, you will find thousands of trees that are perfectly shaped on one side, but have no lower branches on the other.

In 18th century Germany, people started to become concerned about all the trees that were being cut down. So people started making artificial trees out of goose feathers, which were dyed green.

In 1930, a company called Addis Brush began manufacturing artificial trees. Addis made toilet scrubbers and the first fake trees were really nothing more than gigantic, green toilet bowl scrubbers.

In 1958, aluminium trees were first manufactured, and were popular for the next few years, but in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired for the first time, which presented a negative view of aluminium trees, and they began to lose popularity.

These days, most artificial trees are made of PVC plastic. And while it is true that real trees tend to look more, well, real, new technology is allowing artificial trees to close the gap.

One of the biggest advantages of using artificial trees is the cost savings. Once you buy one tree, you’re done. You can use the tree year after year. You don’t have to go out to the store to buy a new one, you don’t have to spend an afternoon at -20, searching through five feet of snow for the perfect tree.

They are convenient. Just pull the tree out of the basement and you’re good to go. Many modern trees already have the lights built in.

Artificial trees don’t have good sides and bad sides. They don’t have shorter branches on one side than the other, or gaps in the branches. and if something is out of place, all you have to do is bend it back into place.

It would be a lie to say that artificial trees don’t shed, but they certainly don’t shed as much as natural trees do, and you don’t need to water them, either.

And, while artificial trees don’t pass the sniff test, in the last few years, they have become far more realistic looking.

But, if your tastes run towards the less traditional, you can get purple, red, white or blue trees. If you’re American and patriotic, you can get a red, white AND blue tree. They come with rainbow stripes and candy cane stripes.

You can get upside down trees, or trees that are bisected horizontally.

There are artificial trees with built in MP3 players and speakers that play Christmas music. There are trees with fake snow already attached to the fake branches.

That said, they are not perfect. Older trees could contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Even the more modern PVC plastic trees release dioxins over time. These dioxins are extremely toxic to both humans and animals. When they’re released into the air or water, they’re stored in our fatty tissue and can cause cancer, neurological damage, and many other serious health issues.

While we’re at it, PVC is a petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastic. Once you throw your artificial tree away, it’s going to be in the landfill forever. And because the plastic fibers are fused and glued to the metal frame, artificial trees can’t be recycled.

Most of the artificial trees sold come from China. This only adds to the carbon footprint.

While artificial trees are more convenient, they are not easily moved. Having pulled an artificial tree from under the stairs in my storage room, I surveyed the results and commented that I probably could have just laid about the basement with a baseball bat for five minutes and accomplished the same thing.

Finally, fake trees are a fire hazard. And while a dry natural tree can also catch on fire, it doesn’t release the same harmful chemicals into the air when burned.

So there you go: the pros and cons of both. Which way will you go this Christmas? Whichever type of tree you choose, we hope that it fills your house with happiness and your heart with joy this holiday season.