Lancaster County is going green this month by encouraging residents to dispose of their Christmas trees by recycling them at the Lancaster County Central Park mulching site. There is no cost for dropping off Christmas trees to be ground into mulch, however, there is a suggested donation of $1 to help cover the operations of the John Moss Native Tree Nursery in Central Park. Customers are limited to three trees per vehicle, and the trees cannot have any decorations or lights on them. This service will be available through Jan. 31.
According to the Intelligencer Journal, this effort will help to create about 22 tons of mulch. This is just one example of how environmentally friendly consumers can be with a real tree, rather than an artificial tree. The Smithsonian magazine article entitled “Dreaming of a Green Christmas” details how the everyday person can make his or her holiday tree eco-friendly: “About 450 million trees are currently grown on farms in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association. ‘Buying a real tree is not depleting the forests,’ Rick Dungey, a spokesman for the association said. ‘It’s like buying any food or fiber product.’”
While many people buy artificial Christmas trees in the hopes that they will last for years, buying a real tree every year is more environmentally friendly. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, for every tree cut down, tree growers plant one to three new seedlings in its place.
The fake trees don’t last as long as some might think. The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before disposing of it. Most of the time, these trees end up in landfills, where they will stay for centuries because they are not biodegradable, as they are a petroleum-based product. They also start out as harmful to the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most artificial Christmas trees are made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, which releases dioxins into the air when produced or burned. Dioxins can cause liver cancer and developmental problems.
According to Smithsonian magazine, a new option has recently arisen: “living trees.” This is when farmers grow the Christmas tree’s roots into a ball and wrap them in a burlap sack. That way, the trees can be used and displayed for two weeks, and then replanted after the holiday season. While this method is not the most popular, it was suggested by Nadine Kennel, a senior in the Environmental Club at Elizabethtown College. She also discussed the new mulching option that Lancaster County is instituting this year. “It’s a good idea because it’s reusing,” Kennel said. “I think it’s better to buy Christmas trees you can plant, but, of course, some people don’t have yards, so it’s understandable.”
Buying real Christmas trees can also help the economy. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, while the majority of artificial trees are made in China, there are close to 350 million Christmas trees grown on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone. Over 100,000 people are employed in this business in the U.S. A lot of those jobs are in Pennsylvania, as it is one of the top Christmas tree-producing states, alongside Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Washington. Since Pennsylvania grows so many Christmas trees, it makes sense to have environmentally friendly programs put in place to recycle them, like the one being implemented in Lancaster County. Hopefully, this initiative will spark the tradition of many “green” Christmases to come.