OPED: Get real when considering a Christmas tree

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

When considering a Christmas tree this holiday season, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania urges you to “get real,” and help the environment and the local economy.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundations urges residents to use real Christmas trees whenever possible.

“Real trees are recyclable and renewable resources that clean our water and our air, and provide important habitat for wildlife,” said CBF’s Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. “Buying a real Christmas tree every year also supports local growers and that is good for the local economy.”

For some people, having a real Christmas tree is not a viable choice. However, according to the National Christmas Tree Association an artificial petroleum-based tree is used for just six to nine years before it is disposed of, taking up permanent space in the local landfill.

Real trees are biodegradable and after the season can be recycled as mulch or compost, added to the landscape as food and habitat for wildlife, or placed into lakes and ponds to benefit aquatic life. Many communities offer recycling programs and curbside pickup.

“Before being cut, real Christmas trees absorb air pollutants and emit fresh oxygen,” Campbell said. “They stabilize soil and reduce erosion, while reducing polluted runoff by filtering and absorbing pollutants that would otherwise flow into local rivers and streams. You can add these same benefits to your home landscape by choosing to buy a real tree in burlap or a container and planting it after the holiday season.”

Buying a real Christmas tree supports the more than 100,000 employees and 15,000 growers in the United States. Pennsylvania has 1,360 Christmas tree farms, second only to Oregon. The Commonwealth ranks fourth in the nation with 31,000 acres dedicated to Christmas trees.

The state Department of Agriculture estimates that more than a million Christmas trees are harvested in the Commonwealth each year. About six million new seedlings are planted in Pennsylvania annually. Douglas fir and Fraser fir are the two most popular species grown in the Keystone State.

As for care during the holidays, providing adequate water is vital to keeping real Christmas trees fresh and reducing needle loss.

It is recommended that the water level in the tree stand, with a capacity of at least one gallon, be kept above the base of the tree. The water level should be checked daily. If the tree has been cut for more than 12 hours before purchase, cutting another a one-quarter inch disk at the base is recommended to improve water intake. Trees should be kept away from fireplaces, heaters, and other sources of heat.

A list of Christmas tree farms in the Commonwealth is available at the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association website at

— The Chesapeake Bay Foundation seeks to save the bay through education, advocacy, litigation and restoration. For more information go to