What sort of Christmas tree is more sustainable, a natural tree, or an artificial tree made of PVC? Surprisingly enough, according to one lifecycle analysis, the PVC tree wins. Not surpringly, the analysis was commissioned by the American Christmas Tree Association, a trade group for the artificial Christmas tree industry. "Owning an artificial Christmas tree is healthier for the environment over a 10 year period than using real trees," the association reports. "The environmental study found that a consumer using an average artificial Christmas tree has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than a consumer using average farm-grown Christmas trees." My typical tree-acquisition strategy was singled out as the worst of all: "The study also indicated that driving out to a tree farm and cutting down a tree is the worst environmental choice you can make when buying a Christmas tree and that it's substantially better for the environment to buy a tree from a local retailer rather than to drive out to a farm, due to the incremental fossil fuel consumed." I guess the association doesn't realize that I live closer to Christmas tree farms than to local retailers. Anyway, let's take this report with a grain of salt. First, let me repeat my standard complaint about lifecycle analysis -- they always seem to favor the companies sponsoring the report. And how can anyone judge competing environmental claims without making subjective decisions about which criteria are most important? On top of that, the author of the LCA in this case is PE Americas/PE International, a consulting firm with a history of doing work for the vinyl industry. Maybe PE International's data is spot on, maybe it's biased. I don't know. I do know that I don't really trust any LCAs. Finally, thanks to Doug Smock's Engineering Materials blog on DesignNews.com, where I first spotted this news.
Are PVC Christmas trees green?
Do you have an opinion about this story? Do you have some thoughts you'd like to share with our readers? Plastics News would love to hear from you. Email your letter to Editor at [email protected]