Every year at this time, people in many parts of the world ask the same question: do we get a real tree or a fake tree for Christmas?
It is hard to question the beauty, the smell, the texture and the look of a real Christmas tree. For many families, selecting a tree, bringing it home and decorating it is a welcome annual tradition.
Each year millions of trees are cut down, tied to the roofs of family cars and carted away. Is there anything wrong with that? Well, it depends who you talk to.
Ethan Budiansky, head of international programs with the non-profit group, Trees for the Future thinks there are alternatives to cutting down trees.
In a recent blog, Mr. Budiansky suggests people focus more on planting trees than cutting them down.
Mr. Budiansky works in Africa and the Caribbean developing reforestation and sustainable agriculture programs. He says the problems caused by a lack of trees are devastating. These include soil erosion and poor soil fertility. This in turn results in poorer crop yields and eventually, more cases of malnutrition.
It may be difficult for many people in the western world to relate to these problems, but perhaps the Christmas season is one time of the year when we should think more about trees – because we bring them into our homes. The rest of the year we tend to take them for granted.
But others aren't as fortunate. As Mr. Budiansky says: "for many people (in the developing world) the present doesn't come under the tree, it is the tree."
If you did buy a real tree this Christmas – enjoy it. They are completely recyclable. Here in Ottawa, 5,000 tonnes of Christmas trees get chipped and turned into mulch and returned to the earth. In addition, the National Capital Commission (NCC) purchases about 1,000 trees from local vendors and uses them to decorate the Rideau Canal during Winterlude.