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Experts Say Real Trees Are The Greenest Way To Celebrate Christmas

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Environmentalists say that real Christmas trees are the greenest way to go during the holidays.
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Environmentalists say that real Christmas trees are the greenest way to go during the holidays.

You might think you're doing the environment a favor by buying and reusing an artificial Christmas tree...but in fact, environmentalists and tree farmers say it's just the opposite.

Buy a fake tree, save some money, and avoid the trimming, the watering and the pine needles — oh the pine needles! — that will inevitably carpet your floors. It's tempting.

But if you have any aspirations of your Christmas being green — as well as white, perhaps — experts say stay away from fake trees.

"It's a petroleum product. You have to extract it from the ground. It takes a lot of energy to melt the plastic to produce the trees. And about 85 percent of the those trees come from China," says Deborah Landau, a conservation ecologist with the Nature Conservancy.

Landau says that means the fake tree industry burns a lot of fuel on shipping, causing a lot of pollution.

Real Christmas trees, on the other hand, spend an average of six to 10 years in the ground before they're big enough to be sold. And they spend that time doing, well, what trees do.

"So they're capturing rainwater, helping it infiltrate into the groundwater, and they're also storing carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen," says Landau.

And Ben Butler, assistant farm manager at his Butler's Orchard in Montgomery County, says if you're worried your Christmas spirit is robbing Mother Earth of another tree, don't.

"For every tree that's sold, we're planting two in its place. So if you think you're cutting the tree down and it's terrible, have no fear, we're planting more behind it."

And back to those pesky falling pine needles — Landau says you can minimize needle loss by waiting until about 10 days before Christmas to get your tree, and that means right about now.

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