How to Have a Green Christmas
Eco-friendly strategies for making the holidays healthier for you -- and the planet.
Fresh vs. Artificial Christmas Trees
Christmas trees pose a dilemma because fresh trees as well as artificial
trees have their advantages and drawbacks.
An artificial tree will last for years, thereby avoiding annual trips to buy
a fresh tree. Fresh trees may also carry mold and spores that can aggravate
allergies. Connecticut researchers recently found that the mold count from a
live Christmas tree rose to more than six times the original level after two
weeks indoors. According to the authors, the study "demonstrates that
mold-sensitive patients may experience allergic symptoms due to an increasing
mold spore exposure from having a live Christmas tree in the home."
No live tree is hypoallergenic, and the Christmas decorations you put on
them, especially heirlooms that have been used for many years, may be covered
with dust, which also can irritate people with allergies.
On the other hand, Lilienfeld says, artificial trees are made with petroleum
-- a nonrenewable resource -- and the manufacturing process often involves
dioxins, a highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical that accumulates in the fatty
tissues of humans and other animals.
They also lack the evergreen fragrance that signifies Christmas for many
people. Buying a fresh tree may eliminate the need for scented candles,
incense, and other overpowering fragrances that can bother people with
allergies -- as well as those without. And because most Christmas trees are
grown on farms, harvesting them does not disturb forests.
As for disposing of the trees, the National Christmas Tree Association and
Earth 911 operate a web
site that directs you to the nearest of nearly 4,000 locations nationwide
that will accept your tree.
A Green Christmas Feast: Moderation Is Merrier
The choice between a fresh or a frozen turkey poses a similar dilemma. Fresh
turkeys have no added hormones, but neither do frozen turkeys because the
federal government prohibits administering growth hormones to poultry.
Free-range turkeys may be raised without antibiotics, but the U.S. Food Safety
and Inspection Service requires that all turkeys given antibiotics be kept
alive long enough for the drugs to pass completely out of the bird's
If you want to make your meal more organic, you might be better off choosing
lots of organic vegetables.