“Get Real.” That’s the answer to whether to buy a real Christmas tree or an artificial one, according to research done by the David Suzuki Foundation.
“A real tree is better by quite a wide margin than an artificial one,” said Justin Smallbridge, who spent several days researching the issue for the foundation. Smallbridge said it’s better for the environment to buy a real tree. For the most part, they are grown and sold locally, produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide for 10 to 12 years before being cut, are fully recyclable, provide habitat and, once cut, are replaced with at least two more seedlings. “Definitively, real trees are better,” said Smallbridge.
Real trees are also part of family Christmas traditions said Arthur Loewen, of the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association.
“We have a lot of families who come out and say, ‘This is our tradition, we are making memories here,’ ” said Loewen, who has been selling trees from his Pine Meadows Tree Farm in Chilliwack for 37 years. “I have people this year saying, ‘I came here as a child with my parents and now we are coming here with our kids.'” Loewen expects to sell 3,000 from his farm and at least that many again to retailers. According to Statistics Canada, real Christmas tree sales were worth $73.9 million in 2005. About 2.4 million trees were exported to places as far away as Ireland and Thailand. Up to six million trees are grown in Canada each year.
Garden Centres are also doing a brisk business. “They smell beautiful and they look gorgeous,” said owner Shelley Fraser, adding that buying live potted trees is also popular. “You can plant them afterwards.”
But not everyone wants to get real.
“I bought an artificial tree this year because I didn’t want to buy a tree that had been cut down,” said Elise Donnelly of Whistler, whose family used to move a live tree in and out of the house for the holidays. “Every year so many trees get cut down for the month of December and it seems so destructive.”
She is not alone. According to Statistics Canada, $36.6 million was spent importing artificial trees from China in 2005.
“Our sales just keep going up, up, up for trees,” said Mark Hansen of Richmond-based Hansen’s Christmas Stuff, adding that convenience is a chief selling point. “They can last for many, many years.”