Going Green: Real Christmas trees
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Balsam fir is one of the many different evergreens that can be used as a Christmas tree for the holiday season. A lot of people, though, really question the sustainability of cutting down a living tree to enjoy it for such a short period of time.
“It'll grow for about ten to 12 years before it's harvested, faster or slower depending on management. While it's growing, it's taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and it's making sugars and making cellulose, essentially it's harvesting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for those ten or 12 years,” said Dr. Russell Briggs, SUNY ESF.
"So you cut it, so then maybe it sits around for six to eight weeks depending on how long you want the tree in your house and then it goes outside. Some people turn it into mulch, some people will burn it but eventually it goes back to the atmosphere which puts carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere but the next growing trees take up that carbon dioxide so if you think about it, it's carbon neutral," said Briggs.
While that recycling is going on, the growing trees provide wildlife habitat, and what about the fertilizer used to grow Christmas trees, can't that hurt the environment?
“Oftentimes you'll get a little bit better color with fertilization. Most soils are slightly deficient in nitrogen when you're trying to grow crops so the demand on the soil is high and people fertilize and that nitrogen is absorbed into the soil. Fertilization at reasonable levels, there's nothing wrong with it. Fertilization at excessive levels first of all is expensive and it's very soluble so that has a potential negative impact if you over fertilize,” said Briggs.
Dr. Briggs says minimal amounts of herbicides are used to grow Christmas trees and irrigation systems are rare.
About Going Green:
Going Green is produced in cooperation with the College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Learn more about SUNY ESF by visiting their website, esf.edu.