Q&A: Which Christmas Tree Is Greener? Real or Fake?

  • November 28, 2012 9:17 am


Hi Alexandra,

My family is just about to buy our Christmas tree for the holiday season and I just wanted to know if you buy a real or a fake tree?




Hi Claire,

Thanks for writing. I commend your organization. I tend to be the last minute decorating (and shopping) type. Technically I’m not supposed to buy a tree at all–and not for eco-reasons! I’m Jewish. But growing up we always celebrated Christmas with a tree and all. Then when I was 10 my non-Jewish stepfather came into our lives, making our typical winter celebration, um, more kosher.

My family oddities aside, when it comes to trees–Jewish or not–holiday celebrators tend to get confused about which is better for the environment: real or fake. To which I add what I think is actually the greenest option: something potted you will keep alive indoors and then plant outdoors when the weather permits. Not interested or don’t have a spot to plant a tree? Let someone else it for you. Some places now rent out live trees.

But back to the more typical debate: real (cut) versus fake. Some people assume fake is best because it can be reused year after year. Unfortunately most faux trees are made of PVC (aka the poison plastic), last only a few years, and then wind up in a landfill. Not very green after all.

When it comes to real trees, millions of them do get cut down every holiday season. That said, more and more municipalities are offering ways to recycle or mulch these after the holidays. The website Earth911.com contends that about 93 percent of trees cut for Christmas are recycled through more than 4,000 available recycling programs. So unless you’re willing to fake it creatively with, say, a cardboard cut out or follow the ideas in this amazing ApartmentTherapy.com post, I’d opt for a small cut tree that you recycle or mulch once Santa has come and gone.

You didn’t ask, but as long as we’re on the subject, I’d like to say a few words about tree lights. Those sparkly strands look good but they suck up more energy than you’d think, and their PVC wires might contain lead. To avoid energy drain and lead dust, skip the lights. Or try a lead-free LED strand.

Happy decorating!



Q&A: What Do You Want For The Holidays?

  • December 7, 2011 12:16 pm


Dear Alexandra,

What do YOU ask for for the holidays?




Hi Jake,

You’re not the only one who asked me this! This year I’d like to go entirely waste-free. Though I did—full disclosure—pre-purchase myself some shoes the other day. I love them/they make me feel a little guilty.

Here’s my whimsical stuff-free Top Ten though some of it is really for real.

  1. A clone and more hours in the day
  2. A television show starring yours truly where I get to be totally honest with people about how badly they need to green their lives (usually I’m pretty polite!)
  3. Sleep (this can actually happen if you give me an IOU for babysitting)
  4. Theater tickets (still haven’t seen/am dying to see Book of Mormon)
  5. Dinner out at an organic/local spot
  6. A massage
  7. Food/wine gifts – I know this is technically stuff, but I can hardly bring myself to put sustainably-grown grapes in the same category as plastic gadgets; local cheese is always welcome
  8. A plant or paper white bulbs (they smell sooo good!)
  9. A 10 class pass to my favorite yoga studio
  10. A museum membership

I’m not without stuff wishes of course. I work at home most of the time so nice comfy pajamas are always a treat. I could stand a new-to-me/faster computer, too. I’ve researched and written three of my four books (not to mention countless articles and blogs) on the one I currently have and it is starting to s l o w down. But I can certainly live without either.

Mainly I’m just hoping for some restorative downtime and meals with my family.