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Monday, June 7, 2010

The American Christmas Tree Association, As Fake as Their Christmas Trees

Today I read the following article on the American Christmas Tree Association's (ACTA) web-site: Carbon Footprint Study Finds Artificial Christmas Trees Best for the Environment.

My curiosity got the better of me and I searched their site hoping to find the results of this study. My efforts were in vain. The only information I found, other than their interpretation of the supposed results, was that the study was an "in-depth analysis". Now if that doesn't make you wonder, look them up on Wikipedia. You will read the following, "The group claims to have sponsored studies, but hasn't released the actual studies to the public".

Still not convinced? Here is an excerpt from their study:

"The study, sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association and conducted by leading international sustainability firm PE Americas, found that the most significant contribution to global warming came from fossil fuel consumption in transportation of real Christmas trees from tree farms and lots to consumer homes."
What is wrong with this picture? I can see three things:
  1. It looks like the root of the problem here is "fossil fuel consumption in transportation", that is driving a car, and has very little to do with Christmas trees.
  2. Last time I checked an artificial Christmas tree doesn't just appear in a living room. I think someone has to drive to the local Home Depot or Lowe's and pick it up.
  3. If the ACTA went to all the trouble of sponsoring this study why didn't they publish the scientific results?
I am the kind of guy who needs answers and after reading this article it left me with a question. Is there something they aren't telling me? I promptly began to do my own research and this is what I found.

Artificial Christmas trees are made of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). What's the big deal, right? We have pipes in our basements and wires in our walls which contain PVC. Wrong!
  1. Early 1970's Dr. John Creech and Dr. Maurice Johnson were the first to clearly link and recognize the cancer causing tendency found in the chemicals used in PVC.
  2. Greenpeace has advocated the global discontinuing of PVC because dioxin is produced as a byproduct vinyl chloride manufacturing and from the burning of PVC waste.
  3. California is currently considering a bill, sponsored by Californians Against Waste to ban using PVC in packaging because of the threats it poses to the health of humans and the environment.
  4. PVC is not normally recycled after use because the recycling process is very costly.
  5. In 2005 Dr. Richard Maas, after a study conducted on artificial Christmas trees, is quoted as saying, "We found that if we leave one of these trees standing for a week, and we wipe under the tree we'll find large amounts of lead dust..."
  6. A 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report found that of the 50 million artificial trees in the US about 20 million were 9 or more years old, the point where dangerous lead levels are reached.
  7. California requires that each artificial Christmas tree come with a warning label about the toxins contained in the PVC.
So does this mean a real Christmas tree is better?

I was able to find a study that actually did share it's scientific
results. There are three points I want to highlight about this study:
  1. Results show that a natural tree will generate 3.1 kg of greenhouse gases whereas the artificial tree will produce 8.1 kg per year.
  2. ellipsos chose the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to perform this study. It follows the recognized ISO 14040 and 14044 standards and it was reviewed by an independent third-party of peers.
  3. Interestingly, to compensate for the impacts of a Christmas tree, be it natural or artificial, one can offset the carbon emissions by carpooling or biking to work only one to three weeks per year.(I wonder how many people at the American Christmas Tree Association are doing their part here...)

One last note. For every Christmas tree cut down on a farm many more are planted. Dutchman Tree Farms planted over 750 thousand trees already this year.

Regarding whether the American Christmas Tree Association is a fake like their trees... I'll let you decide.



Rick Dungey said...

Good post Stephen. You planted 3/4 of a million trees this year alone! Wonder how many ACTA planted? HAHA.

When I first saw that release from ACTA I couldn't believe they would have the audacity to suggest to people that driving to a local tree farm to buy a tree from a local farm family was "bad" for the environment. I mean, we should be encouraging people to visit local farms in their communities, not dis-couraging it. Sheesh. Keep up the great work!

Rick Dungey said...

oh ...and thought your readers might like this page too ...breaking down common myths about Christmas trees. Thanks. http://www.christmastree.org/myths.cfm