OSWEGO — For area residents looking to gather around the holiday tree this winter, environmental advocates and New York tree farmers advise choosing a natural spruce over a plastic evergreen this holiday season.
Urban ecologist and former member of the Oswego Tree Advisory Board Brad Gibson highlighted the need for a wider adoption of locally grown trees as the designated holiday trees.
Gibson, who has worked in urban ecology projects for cities such as Philadelphia, noted the positive environmental benefits of hosting a natural tree this holiday season.
“Artificial trees are made using various plastics and oils, and thus emit pollutants during their manufacturing,” Gibson said. “Another often overlooked issue is that many are made in China and shipped by container from China, which also hurts their carbon footprint.”
Natural trees offer a small carbon emission sequestration, which Gibson underscored as a positive.
“Real trees, though cut when young, still offer carbon sequestration — albeit minimal — and are home to birds and insects,” Gibson added. “They have a small, but positive environmental impact.”
In order to maintain a natural holiday tree for the entire duration of the season, the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York (CTFANY) recommends abiding by the following steps:
• The association recommends getting the tree in fresh water within the first 12 hours of bringing it home. An alternative, the association’s guidelines noted, is to saw an inch up the trunk and supply water so the tree can drink it.
• Monitor the water consumption of the tree. CTFANY recommends never allowing the water level to drop below the fresh cut of the tree.
• CTFANY also warns against keeping the tree near sources of heat. Exposure to heating sources dries up the tree and results in eventual needle loss toward the end of the season, CTFANY guidelines say.
• Use lights that are low in heat such as LEDs or miniature lights. According to CTFANY guidelines, this will reduce the drying of the tree.
The disposal of trees, Gibson said, is also a factor homeowners should consider when picking their holiday tree of choice.
“And then there is the landfill aspect when disposing of artificial trees,” he continued. “Plastic takes centuries to break down, while real trees are chipped or burnt.”
CTFANY officials echoed Gibson’s sentiment, noting most artificial trees are made with byproducts of petroleum and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
PVC’s pliability depends on the addition of other chemicals and metals, which according to CTFANY officials may not be regulated in other countries where the plastic trees are produced.
“The average lifespan of an artificial tree is about six years,” according to the organization’s website. “After that, they end up in landfills where it is estimated they will take over 500 years to degrade, making them a burden on the environment for centuries to come, while lead, arsenic and petroleum byproducts are leached into the ground and our water systems.”
Oswego County has three natural tree farms:
• Ontario Orchards in the town of Oswego. It is located at 7735 State Route 104.
• Darling's Christmas Tree Farm in the town of Hannibal. It is located at 280 Blythe Road.
• Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Station in the town of Hannibal. It is located at 189 Mill St.
For more information, see https://ctfany.org/