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The holiday debate, Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees (NYT Nov. 26), looks at whether we should buy real or artificial – by talking to representatives of both the artificial tree manufacturing and tree farming industry groups, and their ‘Sustainability Consultants’.
While the article’s takeaway ends with a slight margin to real trees, it ends with an observation from the paid ‘eco’ consultant that trees are the least of your holiday impacts, so better worry about something else, like travel.
This article, like thousands before it, dignifies paid pseudo-science and the idea that there is a lot of scientific debate around which actions are more eco/environmental, feeding a sense of futility in making environmental lifestyle decisions.
It’s amazing how statistics and studies fail to set proper boundaries or measure all the outcomes. I’m calling this out in the ‘climate deniers crackpot category’ designed to introduce complexity, hypocrisy and doubt into common sense, “fall off your horse simple” eco actions, masking them as environmental debate. Like throwing a bunch of stats at “can I recycle this teabag or not?” Just fucking recycle what you know how to, and if you don’t, use your head.
Each of us already knows how to make environmental decisions; just think about how you can support your ecosystem. It’s always common sense, the kind of thing your grandparent would have taken for granted, no matter what they try to tell you about emissions comparisons. The things that we do today which destroy our ecosystems (like buying a plastic tree from China) they would have scoffed at…
Here is what you already know to ask:
Can I buy it locally and support resiliency?
Does it support small, local economies and responsible industry?
Is it Biodegradeable, or will it ultimately pollute my home, oceans and land?
Can I get it by cleaner transport?
Is it low in irresponsibly, dirty-mined stuff (plastic oil and pesticide)?
Is it renewable?
Is it recyclable or reusable?
Does it build circular economies and a sustainable future for my kids?
It’s true, if you want to celebrate the holidays in a more environmental fashion, there are lots of amazing opportunities to do so! Here is one we like: giftly.com, where you can pick a local business which doesn’t have a gift card program (most mum and pops don’t), and giftly allows your recipient to purchase from the business you selected, or use the gift money in any way they see fit (another shop; direct to bank, etc.): a double-pronged approach of thoughtful, local gifting, which doesn’t result in wasteful consumption.
Let’s recognize that most environmental choices are actually easy and stop making simple things hard on purpose.