12 votes

In America, Christmas trees are a multibillion-dollar business. But who’s making the money?

13 comments

  1. [8]
    vord
    Link
    While I get the convenince of a fake tree, especially for apartments, real trees are awesome and a hell of a lot more sustainable. Buy a tree, use it, then chuck it in the woods to decompose. We...

    While I get the convenince of a fake tree, especially for apartments, real trees are awesome and a hell of a lot more sustainable.

    Buy a tree, use it, then chuck it in the woods to decompose.

    We like to do like 2 strings of lights, then biodegradable ornaments (dehydrated orange slices, paper, twine). When season is done, yank off lights and toss the whole thing in the woods.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Venko
      Link Parent
      An artificial tree is very convenient though. My wife and I have been using a small artificial tree for five years now and it's still in great condition. After Christmas is over it's easy to pack...

      An artificial tree is very convenient though. My wife and I have been using a small artificial tree for five years now and it's still in great condition. After Christmas is over it's easy to pack away and store in the attic with the decorations ready for next year.

      4 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Not only are fake trees way more convenient (if you have the storage space) and less messy, but quality live Christmas trees are also bloody expensive, too. We recently bought a reasonably...

        Not only are fake trees way more convenient (if you have the storage space) and less messy, but quality live Christmas trees are also bloody expensive, too. We recently bought a reasonably high-end fake tree that looks great and is expected to last >10 years, and it cost about the same as the live blue spruce Christmas tree we usually buy every year. So unless the fake tree somehow totally falls apart before next Christmas, I doubt we will be going back to buying live trees anymore.

        2 votes
    2. [5]
      Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      I personally just do not use any trees, but this had me wondering - what is the difference in carbon cost? Obviously growing the tree is going to offset some carbon, but how much carbon goes into...

      real trees are awesome and a hell of a lot more sustainable.

      I personally just do not use any trees, but this had me wondering - what is the difference in carbon cost? Obviously growing the tree is going to offset some carbon, but how much carbon goes into the growth process through labor, transportation, cutting down, and selling the tree? How many trees get chucked into the garbage rather than thrown into the woods and what's the carbon cost for that disposal in comparison?

      Does anyone happen to have this analysis because now I am intrigued.

      3 votes
      1. [4]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        IIRC when my father looked into this before buying our fake tree, the general consensus was that real Christmas trees were better for the environment if mulched/composted afterwards. If they are...

        IIRC when my father looked into this before buying our fake tree, the general consensus was that real Christmas trees were better for the environment if mulched/composted afterwards. If they are burned, not so much though. And a quick google search of "real vs fake Christmas trees" shows a bunch of articles from reasonably reputable sources that seem to mostly agree that real trees are better for environment overall.

        Edit: I too would love to see a proper study though, if someone knows of one... since none of the articles I have looked at so far seem to have much hard data to actually back up their assessments.

        Edit2: Found a study that was mentioned in this CBC article on the subject:
        Comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of artificial vs natural Christmas tree - Ellipsos
        (direct link to pdf)

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          Aha! Thank you. What I was looking for is Figure E.

          Aha! Thank you. What I was looking for is Figure E.

          The artificial tree can be reused multiple times. This reduces its impact overtime relative to a natural tree bought every year. The threshold at which point the artificial tree becomes [sic] a better option for climate change impacts is after 20 years.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            Honestly a lot longer than I expected but also feels a bit nice to know that my family using the same artificial tree for about 30 years is both frugal and environmentally friendly and not just...

            Honestly a lot longer than I expected but also feels a bit nice to know that my family using the same artificial tree for about 30 years is both frugal and environmentally friendly and not just because we're cheap and my dad is a grinch :)

            6 votes
            1. Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              Also, I would imagine there are more biofriendly alternatives available today. The model tree used in the study was one manufactured in China and made out of PVC and steel. Modern PVC alternatives...

              Also, I would imagine there are more biofriendly alternatives available today. The model tree used in the study was one manufactured in China and made out of PVC and steel. Modern PVC alternatives and manufacturing closer to home may reduce overall environmental impact.

              3 votes
  2. Micycle_the_Bichael
    (edited )
    Link
    I do very much sympathize with the growers, its a shitty situation and very speculative business with little-to-no margin for error. That definitely sucks. As someone who sold trees for a decade?...

    I do very much sympathize with the growers, its a shitty situation and very speculative business with little-to-no margin for error. That definitely sucks. As someone who sold trees for a decade? I've got a fake tree and will probably always use one. The caveat there being that my family runs our artificial trees into the ground. Another comment I mentioned that my mom has been using the same artificial tree since before I was born, and they still use it to this day. My partner and I just bought one 3 years ago. I'm not sure if this one will make it quite as long just because we are hopefully going to be transitioning from renting small apartments to homeownership sometime in the next 2 decades and so hopefully we can get a tree that more accurately fits the space, but even if we do get a new one I'll probably hand it down to my younger cousins who will be just finishing college then.

    Real trees are hard. If you are looking for that traditional green Christmas Tree, you're probably looking for a Douglass Fir or Scotch Pine, at least if you're in the Great Lakes area, don't know about anywhere else. They're green, they smell like pine/christmas tree, and they have great short and soft needles that won't fall off quickly. They're also as expensive to more expensive than a fake tree, and you'll need to buy a new one each year. It's either that or the Austrian Pine. Australian Pines are like the tree from Christmas Vacation: big, full, green, and smell like Christmas. Some of the older guys told me they stopped selling as well and so the lot started shifting to Douglas Firs before I started. If I remember correctly, I think the cheapest tree per foot tall that we sold was Blue Spruce. Blue Spruce is, in my opinion, the type of tree that convinces people to buy a fake tree. They have this blue-green color, they have a strong pine smell, and they have long sharp needles that will stab you in the arm every time you pick up the tree and are fucking annoying as shit. Also they lose needles like nobodies business. At the end of the season we usually had too many Blue Spruces and would resort to using them to start fires to keep warm (lot was open til 9pm, which means some days you're sitting in a parking lot in the dark and snow in sub-zero temps). Blue Spruce's are cheap as hell though, and if you buy them only a couple days or maybe up to 2 weeks before Christmas you'll still get an OK looking tree that fills your house with Christmas spirit.

    Here's the rub to all of this: I think real trees are better. I am not going to own one because I'm a lazy piece of shit who will use the same fake tree until it looks like a toilet bowl scrubber and light pine candles everywhere. But if you get the right tree that fits in your home and you take care of it, it is a great experience. Do some research, see what kinds of trees are commonly available in your area. Ohio alone has 15+ different types of Christmas Trees readily available. Figure out how your city disposes of trees (if you don't have the ability to let it decompose in your yard). Make sure you know how tall the tree can be, AND DON'T FORGET TO ACCOUNT FOR THE STAND AND THE TOPPER. Remember to give it a clean cut on the trunk and give it plenty of water so it doesn't dry out.

    “It’s an issue of supporting American growers or overseas manufacturers,” said Bossio.

    I get where he's coming from on this but, as with all things, it isn't that simple. I'm really surprised that the average Christmas tree cost was $40 back when I was selling, because the lot I worked on was definitely closer to $60-75. Maybe we were just ahead of the curve with having a heavily Douglas Fir and Scotch Pine lot which increased our average price. But most our trees were between $75-125. That's certainly something my family wasn't comfortable nor able to pay annual, and I imagine that's the case for a lot of people as money gets tighter and tighter each year. Again, I don't fault the tree growers and anyone in the industry for the price of trees, the margins basically don't exist. I just find the framing of US growers vs Oversees manufacturers to be a bit disingenuous, either that or over-simplified.

    5 votes
  3. [4]
    j3n
    Link
    A lot of people mentioning the cost of live trees here. I wonder, what percentage of the tree-buying public lives close enough to an appropriate forest to go cut their own? I have a tree for the...

    A lot of people mentioning the cost of live trees here. I wonder, what percentage of the tree-buying public lives close enough to an appropriate forest to go cut their own? I have a tree for the first time in I don't know how many years, and it cost me all of $5 because I took a saw out into the woods and cut it myself, which is frankly not much more work and a whole lot more fun than buying one from the Home Depot parking lot.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      vord
      Link Parent
      In the US? I'm betting not many. I grew up in a relatively rural area, and even there your options to scour the woods: Private property (aka: get caught trespassing and get shot) Government-owned...

      what percentage of the tree-buying public lives close enough to an appropriate forest to go cut their own?

      In the US? I'm betting not many. I grew up in a relatively rural area, and even there your options to scour the woods:

      • Private property (aka: get caught trespassing and get shot)
      • Government-owned property (aka: get caught trespassing and go to prison)
      1 vote
      1. [2]
        j3n
        Link Parent
        You get a tree permit. That's what the $5 was for. Even when I lived in suburban Southern California there were multiple national forests within an hour's drive.

        Government-owned property (aka: get caught trespassing and go to prison)

        You get a tree permit. That's what the $5 was for. Even when I lived in suburban Southern California there were multiple national forests within an hour's drive.

        1 vote
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          Whelp, now I gotta Google tree permit. Never heard of such a thing.

          Whelp, now I gotta Google tree permit. Never heard of such a thing.

          1 vote