Don’t stress about what kind of Christmas tree to buy, but…

first_img The Anatomy of Fear By Bert Cregg, Michigan State UniversityEnvironmentally conscious consumers often ask me whether a real Christmas tree or an artificial one is the more sustainable choice. As a horticulture and forestry researcher, I know this question is also a concern for the Christmas tree industry, which is wary of losing market share to artificial trees.And they have good reason: Of the 48.5 million Christmas trees Americans purchased in 2017, 45 percent were artificial, and that share is growing. Many factors can influence this choice, but the bottom line is that both real and artificial Christmas trees have negligible environmental impacts. Which option “wins” in terms of carbon footprint depends entirely on assumptions about how long consumers would keep an artificial tree versus how far they would drive each year to purchase a real tree.From seedling to wood chipperMany consumers believe real Christmas trees are harvested from wild forest stands and that this process contributes to deforestation. In fact, the vast majority of Christmas trees are grown on farms for that express purpose.To estimate the total impact of something like a Christmas tree, researchers use a method called life cycle assessment to develop a “cradle to grave” accounting of inputs and outputs required to produce, use and dispose of it. For natural Christmas trees, this covers everything from planting seedlings to harvesting the trees and disposing of them, including equipment use, fertilizer and pesticide applications, and water consumption for irrigation.Life cycle assessments often will also estimate a system’s carbon footprint. Fuel use is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Christmas tree production. Using 1 gallon of gas or diesel to power a tractor or delivery truck releases 20 to 22 pounds (9 to 10 kilograms) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.On the positive side, Christmas trees absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, which helps to offset emissions from operations. Carbon represents about 50 percent of the dry weight of the wood in a tree at harvest. According to recent estimates, Christmas tree-sized conifers store roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide in their above-ground tissue and likely store similar amounts below ground in their roots.Christmas tree farming requires careful planning to manage a crop that takes six to seven years to mature.However, using 1 gallon of gasoline produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide, so if a family drives 10 miles each way to get their real tree, they likely have already offset the carbon sequestered by the tree. Buying a tree closer to home or at a tree lot along your daily commute can reduce or eliminate this impact.And natural trees have other impacts. In 2009, Scientific American specifically called out the Christmas tree industry for greenwashing, because growers’ press releases touted carbon uptake from Christmas tree plantations while ignoring pesticide use and carbon dioxide emissions from plantation management, harvesting and shipping.Is synthetic better?Artificial trees have a different set of impacts. Although many people think shipping trees from factories in China takes a lot of energy, ocean shipping is actually very efficient. The largest energy use in artificial trees is in manufacturing.Producing the polyvinyl chloride and metals that are used to make artificial trees generates greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. China is working to reduce pollution from its chemical industry, but this may drive up the prices of those materials and the goods made from them.Moreover, to consider sustainability from a broader perspective, production of real Christmas trees supports local communities and economies in the United States, whereas purchasing artificial trees principally supports manufacturers in China.Artificial trees require assembly, but no watering and little cleanup. They also can be reused year after year.Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock.comGoing head to headRecently the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents artificial tree manufacturers, commissioned a life cycle assessment comparing real and artificial Christmas trees. The analysis considered environmental aspects of sustainability, but did not examine social or economic impacts.The report concluded that the environmental ‘break-even’ point between a real Christmas tree and an artificial tree was 4.7 years. In other words, consumers would need to keep artificial trees for five years to offset the environmental impact of purchasing a real tree each year.One major shortcoming of this analysis was that it ignored the contribution of tree roots – which farmers typically leave in the ground after harvest – to soil carbon storage. This omission could have a significant impact on the break-even analysis, given that increasing soil organic matter by just one percent can sequester 11,600 pounds of carbon per acre.Reuse or recycle your treeConsumers can’t affect how farmers grow their live trees or how manufacturers produce artificial versions, but they can control what happens after Christmas to the trees they purchase. For artificial trees, that means reusing them as many times as possible. For natural trees, it means recycling them.This is essential to optimize the carbon footprint of a real tree. Grinding used Christmas trees and using them for mulch returns organic matter to the soil, and can contribute to building soil carbon. Many public works departments across the United States routinely collect and chip used Christmas trees after the holidays. If local tree recycling is not available, trees can be chipped and added to compost piles. They also can be placed in backyards or ponds to provide bird or fish habitat.In contrast, if a used tree is tossed into a bonfire, all of its carbon content is immediately returned to the air as carbon dioxide. This also applies to culled trees on tree farms. And if used trees are placed in landfills, their carbon content will ultimately return to atmosphere as methane because of the way materials buried in landfills break down. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a century, so this is the most environmentally harmful way to dispose of a used tree.All kinds of factors influence choices about Christmas trees, from fresh trees’ scent to family traditions, travel plans and the desire to support farmers or buy locally. Regardless of your choice, the key to relieving environmental angst is planning to reuse or recycle your tree. Then you can focus on gifts to put under it.This article is republished from The Conversation. You have entered an incorrect email address! Please enter your email address here Free webinar for job seekers on best interview answers, hosted by Goodwill June 11 Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter Please enter your comment! LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply Support conservation and fish with NEW Florida specialty license plate Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 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A look at housing policy under Labour

first_imgEmma Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for HousingFOR MILLIONS OF families across the country, the cost of buying or renting a home is at the heart of the cost-of-living crisis. And for many of those who used to dream of owning their own home, their hopes are fading fast as house prices rise and their wages stagnate. Recent figures show that for the first time in decades, if you’re in your late twenties or early thirties, you’re more likely to be renting privately than buying a home with a mortgage.The cause of this is simple – there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes in many parts of Britain.The housing shortage did not begin with this Government. But under David Cameron it is getting much worse. The number of homes built across the country in the past four years is lower than at any time in peacetime since the 1920s.We support help for first time buyers which is why we support ‘Help to Buy’. But rising demand for housing must be matched with rising supply, otherwise there is a real risk that soaring house prices will push home ownership out of the reach of the very first-time buyers that the scheme shouldbe helping.The housing shortage did not begin with this Government. But under David Cameron it is getting much worse.”That’s why we need to boost housing supply to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Where David Cameron has failed, the next Labour Government will act. Ed Miliband has made a firm promise: under the next Labour Government, we will be building at least 200,000 decent homes a year by 2020, double what we are building today. We will tackle the shortage of homes and stand up for first-time buyers.Boosting supply is not the only thing that Labour will do. We will clamp down on the blight of empty homes and take steps to improve standards in the private rented sector.There are now nine million people renting from landlords across England. There are many good landlords, but at present there are too many bad landlords who prey on vulnerable tenants. Some 35 per cent of properties in the private rented sector are rated as non-decent. We need serious action to prevent the exploitation of tenants and root out these poor living conditions.That’s why a Labour Government will introduce a national register of landlords and give local authorities greater powers and flexibility to introduce licensing schemes. Some Labour local authorities like Oxford and Newham in London have already introduced such schemes. Others, like Islington and Liverpool, are looking at taking similar steps.We also need better regulation of lettings and management agents. As the number of people renting from private landlords has almost doubled over past decade, the role of lettings agents has increased.While many letting and management agents provide an important service and act responsibly, too many unscrupulous agents rip-off tenants and landlords alike. This means that tenants and landlords don’t get a fair deal and the many responsible agents are undercut and their reputation undermined.It is clear that good letting agents play a valuable role in managing the relationship between landlords and tenants. However, an increasing number of agents are increasing their fees and ripping tenants off by overcharging for simple services. The worst lettings agents charge both landlords and tenants and fail to provide value for money for either. Labour would ensure full transparency on fees by making it a requirement for agents to present landlord and tenant fees on their websites, in adverts and in all paperwork in a way that is easily comparable across agents. We are also assessing the level and extent of activities that can be charged for.Labour has also called for the mandatory regulation of the residential lettings and management agent market. We will work in partnership to develop this with the sector, and are considering measures including a code of code of conduct and compulsory business and consumer protection measures. This includes extending consumer protection measures governing estate agents to letting agents, giving the regulatory body powers to ban agents who act improperly.Labour wants to ensure that the private rented sector is one of choice, which is why we have set out a series of reforms to make that happen. But we are clear that our priority is to build more homes. The housing shortage is central to the cost-of-living crisis, and neither will be solved until our country has a government that is willing to act. A One Nation Labour government would show that determination so that we can meet the aspirations of people across the UK.housing shortage labour regulation of lettings market shortage of affordable homes shadow minister for housing emma reynolds mp April 8, 2014The NegotiatorWhat’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.Related articles BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021 City dwellers most satisfied with where they live30th April 2021 Hong Kong remains most expensive city to rent with London in 4th place30th April 2021 Home » News » A look at housing policy under Labour previous nextA look at housing policy under Labour8th April 20140552 Viewslast_img read more