Written by Staff Writer
Staff Writer, CNN
If you’re looking for a holiday decorating headache, the time to kick out the trees might be now.
Now researchers say they’ve finally found a fair way to match natural tree to artificial ones for everyone’s climate and impact on the planet.
German plastic surgeon & ecologist Alice Kohl shows a tree “without its needles” which she says should be natural for most climate zones. Credit: Christian Lutz/Photothek via Getty Images
With artificial trees on the market now, scores of critics have complained that they emit toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, directly harming the planet.
About 40% of artificial trees, according to research cited by Inside Edition , are made from plastic.
Adults between the ages of 15 and 54 complain that artificial trees cause them to feel greener in the winter months than real trees.
And since artificial trees are typically placed closer to the house, they consume more electricity.
Natural vs. artificial: which Christmas tree option is better for the environment?, September 28, 2017
For customers who value their carbon footprint and organic options, these cost factors may give you pause.
But it might not be as bad as you think.
To set up artificial trees, manufacturers have to cut down on valuable “brownwood” and use native tree species, to avoid impurities, Kohl explains.
Now, a handful of companies are aiming to craft a more sustainable tree just by replacing the tree fiber with recycled plastic.
Strict biodegradability measures are now embedded in so-called “re-injection made” artificial trees.
They need to adhere to a specific set of rules, from access to water to acceptability to harvest. In order to contain and decompose and eliminate harmful byproducts, artificial trees are naturally filtered by microorganisms living on the inner layers, Kohl says.
“You can see real trees create their own atmosphere within themselves, which helps promote decomposition. But this is not possible with artificial trees,” Kohl told CNN.
RE-Injection made trees, tested by ecologist Alice Kohl, are non-toxic. Credit: Alice Kohl/The Nature Conservancy
The all-natural hybrid allows trees to provide natural, natural moisture and absorb the chemicals less. Kohl says this helps to decrease both carbon dioxide and harmful nitrogen retention, which affects the environment’s oxygen supply.
The EPA advises artificial trees should be placed in an attic, if air quality standards are not met.
By comparison, very sensitive plants can be placed near the garage, where nearby homes have a stronger nutrient supply.
“And it’s important to have many options. Today there are various manufacturers who are now offering and producing re-injection made trees, which is absolutely fun because they can be customized in shape, size and the selection and can include different colors, depending on your preferences,” Kohl says.
One small step towards a greener Christmas
Before now, customers have only had options for either buying a tree that is natural or artificial. The hybrid, which has existed since the 1950s, is emerging in an increasingly competitive market.
Other researchers such as Katherine Weeks and Tom Phillips of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, plan to monitor the re-injection made tree’s success in the years to come.
The UK-based duo want to use artificial trees to encourage rainforest deforestation, an alarming waste of resources and the planet’s natural resources, they say.
If an artificial tree is unable to handle nature, it leaves its andreival process behind, even if it can provide humans with a sensory delight that the traditional deck of pine cannot, they add.
The most sustainable option is still a real tree. Real trees create a domino effect that helps the ecosystem — filtering pollutants from surrounding air and natural, precious soil — just as it does with real trees.
Getting the balance right is the challenge and if you’re planning a social impact project involving greenery, “the decision is easier,” says Kohl.
“Trees are beneficial for the planet, and we need to keep trees alive.”