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Fresh Vs. Fake: and the winner is...

These discussions almost always start and stop with the Christmas tree but it is important to note that other décor meant to emulate fir branches will have the same pros and cons.

Artificial trees and wreaths are perfectly shaped and come in various sizes and varieties. Their prices can easily surpass $1,000 depending on the quality chosen and whether or not they come pre-strung with lights. Additional design features such a flocking can add even more to the cost. Many come with a warranty and because they will get used on average for 6 to 9 years, they can be a more economical option. However, according to the National Christmas Tree Association 85 percent of fake trees are imported from China and are made from a combination of PVC plastic and a softer plastic called polyethylene. The combo produces lush artificial tree branches that are soft to the touch but lurking inside are potentially harmful toxins such as dioxin. The PVC is non-biodegradable so once tossed in the trash, that wreath or tree will remain in the landfill forever.

Fresh trees, although farmed and trimmed for shapeliness, are generally not perfect and so choosing the best trees often becomes a family tradition. They, too, come in various sizes and varieties but it is always best to choose a tree that is native to the area because it will likely have been cut more recently. Prices can range from $25 to upwards of $175 depending on size, variety and freshness. A fresh tree will fill your home with a piney scent that gets everyone in the holiday spirit but when the scent disappears, it’s time to check for dryness and falling needles because your tree is drying up. Environmentalists say fresh trees are the better option because they are being harvested from tree farms with the intent to grace someone’s home for the holidays and then recycled for wood chips to be used in community parks and such. However, fresh trees often require the use of pesticides and can contain molds that when brought into the home can be miserable for allergy sufferers. And there is the issue of supply and demand that creates waste when so many harvested trees are left over after the holidays.

Fake décor gets the nod for ease – especially if the tree, wreath or garland is pre-strung with lights. It can come out and get put away at any time because freshness is not a concern. Anything fresh will dictate when it’s time to go based on the mess it is creating with falling needles and the concern over it being a fire hazard.

And if a green holiday is what you are really after, then there is one more option which can be debated as truly the most sustainable – a living tree or potted tree that can be planted in your yard when the holidays are over. Local nurseries will have advice for choosing the best variety depending on where the tree will ultimately grow.  

Did You Know?

Artificial trees, wreaths and garland are available at big box stores, florists and an array of online locations. When comparing prices, pay close attention to materials used, size, number of pre-strung lights and color gradation that adds to the realistic look. Warranty information and shipping costs can also make a difference. And pay close attention to required storage instructions. You may not have room to properly care for the item when not in use.

On the fresh front, families will have a truly old-fashioned experience by venturing into the forest and cutting their own tree. Permits will be available at the Pikes Peak Ranger District beginning around Thanksgiving and generally cost about $10 per tree. There will be specific cutting dates and sites. Visit them at 601 S. Weber St. or call (719) 636-1602 for more information. They can also be found online by searching for Pikes Peak Ranger District.  It is best to measure the height you need beforehand and take a tape measure with you because trees always look smaller in the forest.

Colorado Springs offers tree recycling for a nominal donation after the holidays. Several drop-off locations are offered for convenience over two separate weekends. Watch for more information when the holiday season is in full swing.