As Christmas approaches many people are getting ready for the season by following one of the most common traditions – tree decorating. While Christmas trees come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, there are two schools of thought on which tree is the better type; real or artificial. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, there is no denying that earthy pine smell that emanates from a real Christmas tree. While the scent is one pro of the real Christmas tree, the fact that it loses its needles all over your carpet is definitely a con.
Everyone has a theory as to how to make the needles on your tree last longer, stay greener, and not fall off. Many of these theories include adding something to the tree’s water. These additives range from fertilizer to bleach to pop to pain relievers, and while some people will swear up and down that they work, our friends at Mythbusters have proven that many of them do not. In one of their holiday specials they test out these common myths and their findings are not all that surprising. You can check out the results of their experiments here: http://mythbustersresults.com/special10
One of their findings is that spraying the branches of the tree with hairspray is a probable solution as it “fixes” the needles to the branches. The only issue with this is that hairspray is extremely flammable. Most hairsprays use alcohol to deliver the active ingredients that make your hair hold; and as can be seen in the video, alcohol can catch on fire! Christmas trees are already a natural fire hazard and by adding hairspray you could be asking for trouble.
There are a few things that you can do that will help to extend the life of your tree’s needles. Try following these simple steps to reduce the number of needles your tree drops.
• If you are buying your live tree from a tree lot, ask the lot attendant if they know how long it has been since the tree was cut down. Once a tree is cut, the base will quickly start to dry out. The natural resin found in the tree will dry over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water. If the tree has been freshly cut, take it home and put it into warm water right away. If it has been a few days since its harvest, cut 5-10 cm off the end of the tree before placing it into a tree stand.
• Make sure your tree stand can hold at least 4 litres of water.
• Water your tree every day, filling the tree stand so that the water level is well above the bottom of the tree.
• Replace your traditional tree lights with LEDs. With traditional Christmas lights, up to 90% of the electricity is given off as heat (which is a waste of electricity and can dry out your tree’s needles). LEDs are much more efficient and they don’t give off any heat. They don’t waste energy by heating the bulbs which makes them more child friendly and less of a fire hazard.
• Take down the tree before it dries out. A well-watered tree is estimated to last up to 5 weeks!
When the holidays are over, don’t forget that there are lots of options for your Christmas tree. Bring your tree (minus its ornaments of course!) to one of the convenient locations where the City of Thunder Bay runs the Christmas Tree Chipping Program (don’t leave it at the curb!). Or, you can stand your tree up in your backyard near your bird feeder to provide the birds with a little extra habitat and protection from the elements. If you are concerned about the carbon footprint of cutting down a tree or buying an artificial one, try buying a live tree, keeping it in its pot throughout the holidays and then planting it outside in the spring!
Still not sure which way to go for this holiday season? Check out this list of pros and cons and make the decision that bests fits your lifestyle. Real Tree vs. Artificial:
Fresh trees have a lovely fragrance
Supports local tree farmers
Can be recycled in the Christmas Tree Chipping Program
Only lasts one season
May dry out (keep it watered!)
Non-recycleable; Higher carbon footprint unless used for many years
Can last for many years
Never dries out