SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) –
Hundreds of well-lit trees decorate the main room of Chuck Hafner’s Garden Center in Syracuse. Stacey Jones, the buyer for the garden center, said customers walk through the entrance to choose an artificial tree.
“We call it our forest … the past few years people have been looking for something that looks more like a real … this year everyone wants multi-colored lights,” she said.
Each year on average 27.8 million new artificial trees are purchased for the holidays. Tripti Bhattacharya, a professor of earth sciences at Syracuse University, said that the manufacturing of these trees can have a serious impact on the environment.
“Our biggest sources of CO2 emission come from fossil fuel burning,” said Bhattacharya. “Part of it is industrial production … manufacturing artificial Christmas trees will definitely impact fossil fuel emissions and pollution.”
Bhattacharya said that one person’s action can add up to a massive impact.
“Individual choices are like drops in the ocean, but if you make it easier for people to make those choices you can have a much larger impact on society,” Bhattacharya said.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that for every real Christmas tree harvested three more seedlings are planted. Russell Briggs, an environmental science professor at SUNY ESF, said that the real thing is more sustainable.
“The flaws are Christmas trees are a crop,” said Briggs. “You have land allocated for a crop that’s land that’s not being developed.”
Briggs said that paving over land for industry is one of the main causes of destruction to the ecosystem.
David Newman, chair of the Forestry and Natural resources department at SUNY ESF, said the impact of trees on the environment is minimal because Christmas only comes once a year.
“Christmas trees are a very specialized market … it’s a small niche market,” said Newman. “I would say the environmental impact is pretty small.”
He himself uses an artificial tree.
“I like the fact that the tree already has lights on it, and I don’t have to mess with lights,” he said. “It all comes down to personal preference.”
At Chuck Hafner’s you have the option of both fake and artificial trees. Jones said that by far the garden center sells more real trees.
“We have two greenhouses devoted to real trees,” said Jones. “You get to choose because there’s lots and lots of trees to choose from.”