For Lehman Students, Plastic Is the New Christmas Green

By Leah Liceaga

A Christmas tree lot ready for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

“To me you’re taking away from nature every time you cut down one of those trees just to have it in your home, or anywhere else,” Christine Auiles, a Lehman English major, explained of her choice to get an artificial tree for Christmas. “They last longer, it’s more durable, [and] you can put it away until you need it.” She added that she does not feel it is necessary to have a live tree at home for Christmas when it will only last a couple of days.

For many Lehman students, like Auiles this holiday season, going for plastic was the greener and more affordable choice. According to Diffen, a website that makes comparison that people worldwide can add to and update, the price of a mid-sized artificial tree can average $100, while a real tree of the same size costs $40 to $50. A fake tree is ultimately better in the long run. The artificial tree will also last up to ten years and require less care than a real tree, which would have to be replaced every year.

Home Depot charges anywhere from $70 to over $200 for an artificial tree, depending on size and appearance -- for example, a tree covered in fake snow or already outfitted with Christmas lights would cost more than a simple artificial tree. While the real trees Home Depot sells are cheaper in the short term, over a period of years, buying multiple real trees becomes costlier than buying one artificial one.

“We got a fake tree,” Sandra Matos, a Lehman English major said of her Christmas tree choice this year. “The prices were better, and we needed one quickly.”

For other students, the issue was not price but durability. Lehman College junior, Laura Leonardo, said her family “used to get real [trees] when I was younger, but my family started getting fake ones when I got older because we got too busy to really care about Christmas like that…a fake tree, and reusing it seemed more practical.”

Buying a plastic tree gets around another problem that has increased in recent years -- a shortage of trees. Due to the recession in 2008, many people who grew Christmas trees either went out of business or had to decrease how many they grew. Since trees take a decade or so to grow, there was a shortage of Christmas trees this year.

“There is a touch of an undersupply," Doug Hundley, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association told Newsweek. Drought in the Pacific Northwest also shares blame for the shortage. GWD Forestry -- a company that offers direct investment into sustainably managed agroforestry plantations internationally -- predicted the recent droughts and wildfires in North Carolina and Oregon could keep the tree shortage going until the year 2025. It also noted that the amount of Christmas trees being planted across the country has dropped dramatically; falling from 5.6 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2015.

Once the holiday season is over, real Christmas trees are usually thrown out, though some are recycled. From Jan. 2 through 13 of 2018, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) collected real Christmas trees left at the curb and turned them into mulch to be used for the city’s parks, community gardens, and institutions. They also encouraged those with gardens to use as much of the tree as possible for mulch. The remainder of the tree could be taken to MulchFest at city parks to be chipped, or left for the DSNY to collect.