Christmas tree production is a big business that offers economic benefits and environmental impacts, reported Erin Blakemore in Popular Science.
Christmas trees' environmental tolls include fuel for helicopters to harvest and trucks to transport, but UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Lynn Wunderlich says fertilizer and pesticide use are the main culprits.
"There is pesticide use across the board," she said.
Christmas tree farmers can use integrated pest management tools to reduce pesticide use, including monitoring for pests and natural predators and selecting pest resistant trees, such as Nordmann and Turkish firs.
Glyphosate is used to manage weeds between seedlings and on the walkways between trees. Wunderlich said that since the herbicide is used in small quantities - and not on the trees themselves - consumers don't have to worry about herbicide residue in their homes.
Live Christmas trees benefit the environment by capturing carbon dioxide and storing it in their branches, roots and needles. Availability of the natural option also means fewer artificial trees are set up during the holidays.
"Artificial trees have major environmental impacts," Wunderlich said.
Since live tree impacts also stem from the distance consumers drive to purchase the trees, for the greenest tree possible, Wunderlich suggests getting to know your local tree farmer.
"Buy local, stay local," she said.