Q: There has been a lot of talk about carbon footprints. What is a carbon footprint?
A: A carbon footprint is "the total set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by a company, nation, or individual." Greenhouse gases are things like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. When we heat our homes or drive our cars or make things in our factories, we produce greenhouse gases and create a carbon footprint.
Q: How can we reduce our carbon footprint?
A: We can drive our cars less and take public transportation, ride our bike or walk more often. Also, we can use fewer plastics—including plastic Christmas trees. Buy a Real Christmas tree instead!
Q: Isn't it better for the environment to buy artificial trees?
A: Actually just the opposite. Artificial trees are plastic. Plastic is made from a non-renewable resource - oil. Artificial trees are made in a factory and whether it is in the U.S., China, or somewhere else, the greenhouse gas is still generated. Artificial trees take decades to decompose (if ever). Real trees are a renewable resource. When a tree is cut from a tree farm, two are planted. Real trees readily decompose and therefore do not clog up landfills. There are many options for recycling your real tree.
Q: The term photosynthesis is often used when discussing the benefits of a real tree. What is photosynthesis?
A: Photosynthesis is a chemical process that takes place inside a tree's foliage. During photosynthesis, trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and water from the soil--in the presence of sunlight—producing carbohydrates that cause the tree to grow and release oxygen and water vapor.
Q: Why is photosynthesis important to me or the environment?
A: When photosynthesis occurs, real trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They use the carbon to grow and release oxygen. Young trees convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen at a faster rate than old trees. When artificial trees are produced, greenhouse gases are created. Real Christmas trees take a greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, use it to grow, and release oxygen.
Q: How does buying a real tree help?
A: According to Rebecca Montgomery, Assistant Professor of the University of Minnesota's Department of Forest Services, an acre of Christmas trees can remove about 8,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere. This occurs at a faster rate in young trees. Christmas trees are harvested before this rate begins to slow.
Q: If everyone bought a real tree, won't we run out of trees in the future?
A: Christmas trees are renewable and sustainable. The National Christmas Tree Association estimates that more than 460 million Christmas trees were growing in the United States in 2007. In that same year, growers planted about 43 million trees. For every tree that is cut, two to three new ones are planted the following spring. The more trees they sell, the more they will plant. The more they plant, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, releasing even more oxygen. This process reduces our carbon footprint.
Q: Do real trees provide any other environmental benefits?
A: Real Christmas trees provide excellent habitat for birds and other small animals. Their branches keep the ground cooler in summer and warmer in winter - sheltering many animals. Christmas trees help prevent water and soil erosion. They beautify the landscape.
Q: What can I do with my tree after the holiday season?
A: Many communities have a collection program where the trees are picked up and taken to a recycling facility. After Christmas, they can be chipped. This mulch is used by tree farmers to protect the tender roots of small trees. Gardeners use it for their planting beds and garden paths. Cities and counties use it in their parks and recreation facilities. This mulch cools the soil, helps retain moisture, and prevents weed growth. In addition, clean urban wood waste is a raw material for district energy systems. This biomass produces steam, hot water, or chilled water—reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Q: Do real trees have an economic impact?
A: Christmas trees are produced on local farms. As a result, they provide jobs and stimulate the local economy. Many young people work on these farms, gaining an appreciation for the land and valuable life lessons.