It’s evident now more than ever how our consumer choices and lifestyle decisions have significant and lingering effects on the planet and the precarious ecological system on which we depend. Images of oceans packed with more plastic than fish, communities devastated by natural disasters and landscapes scorched by record temperatures are visual representations of action and reaction.
Everything down to the type of artificial Christmas tree we choose has a resounding impact on how hospitable the world of tomorrow will be, which makes “eco-fying” one of your most beloved holiday traditions not only worth it, but imperative.
“Artificial Christmas trees are commonly made from PVC or polyethylene plastics and imported from China or South Korea,” explained Emily Fletcher, a sustainability expert and founder of the Australian Clean + Conscious Awards. “Both of these plastics are derived from petrochemicals and create huge greenhouse gas emissions in their manufacture.”
While it’s nearly impossible to find artificial Christmas trees that are not made from PVC or some kind of polyethylene plastics, there are some made from recycled PVC, which is a much better option if you’re buying your first artificial tree or replacing one that’s busted.
“Depending on what the artificial Christmas tree is made and sourced from, it has the potential to be one of the most sustainable products,” said Matt Bertulli, a longtime waste management advocate and the CEO of Pela, an international sustainability company that makes everyday products out of everyday waste. “By purchasing one artificial tree made of sustainable products and materials, you are drastically reducing harmful products from being thrown into the environment.”
Robert Gibson, a professor at the school of environment, resources and sustainability at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told HuffPost it’s crucial to consider “the full life cycle of the products involved. For an artificial tree, that includes the effects of extracting the materials, manufacturing, transporting, using, storing, recycling or disposing.”
Although artificial trees made in the U.S.A. are very few and far between, Gibson’s words suggest that locally made trees, which likely haven’t used as much fossil fuel to arrive at your doorstep, are worth the effort in the long run if you can find one. Buying domestic can also help prevent you from experiencing the host of global supply issues that are having a huge impact on the artificial tree industry.
That said, the use that you get out of the tree is perhaps the most critical factor.
“The idea behind using an artificial tree is that it will be used repeatedly and therefore save a living tree from being cut down and subsequently heading to landfill just a few weeks later,” Fletcher said. “So, if you’re doing an artificial tree, the most important factor in its sustainability is to use it for as many years as possible.”
Take a look at some of the artificial Christmas trees on the more sustainable side below for an earth-conscious Christmas.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.