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Metro Detroit

November 26, 2013

Real, artificial trees meet different needs during Christmastime

By Sherri Kolade and Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writers

» click to enlarge «
Menards, in Livonia, has artificial trees for customers looking to go with a specific look and easy maintenance for their Christmas celebration.
These stack of trees at Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton, near Lake City, are ready for shipping.
 
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A live tree can be one of the best symbols of the Christmas season, Marsha Gray, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, said.

“For our economy, they’re huge,” Gray said of trees. “Michigan is the third-largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation … but we estimate that we will harvest about 3 million trees, and about two-thirds of those actually leave the state.”

When it comes to Christmastime, trees are a $40 million-$45 million wholesale value business beneficial not only for the state, but to farmers and their crops, as well, Gray said.

“Everyone is told in third grade, ‘Don’t cut down a tree,’” she said. “We really have to help remind people it is a crop; it is an agricultural crop that is constantly replenished, so if you are buying the tree, we are replanting the tree while it is growing. It is doing great things, and if you don’t buy the tree, then you are not saving the earth; you are just putting a farmer out of business.”

Some Christmas trees are also planted where other crops wouldn’t typically grow, she added.

Gray said real Christmas trees are also beneficial for the living room and beyond.

“They provide oxygen,” she said. “One acre of Christmas trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people. It is giving something beneficial for life. It also provides a wildlife habitat.”

She added that although she does not want to point a negative finger at artificial trees, she said people just need to put an artificial tree and a real tree side by side to compare.

“How is an artificial tree made? Where is it made? What is it made out of? There actually are some that have toxins in them, so you really need to look at what you are getting,” she said of artificial trees. “Actually, some (artificial) Christmas trees come with hazard warnings, so think about that.”

Gray said people are also not harming the ecosystem by cutting Christmas trees down or receiving them from tree lots.

“We’re not taking them out of the woods. … If we were cutting down the rainforest to provide Christmas trees, it would be a different question,” she said. “It really is a farm-grown product, and I really don’t think a lot of consumers realize that.”

Jill O’Donnell, Michigan State University senior extension educator for Christmas trees, said there are also a number of advantages to using farm-grown trees this holiday season.

“Selecting the perfect Christmas tree can create a tradition and be an enjoyable family experience,” O’Donnell said. “Natural trees are biodegradable and have many alternative uses following the Christmas season.  Many communities now have a Christmas-tree recycling program. Bottom line: The environmental impact of both (real and artificial trees is) negligible.”

For more information about real Christmas trees, go to realmichigan christmas.com or www.mcta.org.

There’s no doubt real trees have their perks. But in a season of harried schedules and high-stress levels, some revelers prefer to keep the tree low-maintenance. That’s where plastic comes in.

“With the artificial trees, there’s no worry about the trees drying out or lack of watering. Then there’s no needles to clean up off the floor, and you don’t have to worry about disposing of it after Christmas,” said James Larkin, general manager of Menards in Livonia.

The store, which just opened up this past August, has devoted an entire room at its Livonia location, on Middlebelt Road, to showcase fabulous faux tannenbaums. Larkin said the staff has enjoyed seeing families wander through the display and enjoy the excitement that comes with shopping for Christmas décor.

“We’ve got prelit trees, nonlit trees, ranging in different heights from 6 1/2-feet to 8-feet,” said Larkin, who said Menards stocks everything needed for holiday decorating, from wreaths and trees to lights and other fun items that help make the season bright.

Aside from making life easier in the realm of Christmas cleanup, Larkin said artificial trees could potentially be safer, as well.

“The stand has a good radius on it, and in most cases, artificial trees are lighter than live trees. The stand is a little safer than having the homeowner try to secure it,” he said.

He added that when live trees dry out, not only do needles shed onto the floor, but the tree itself could become a potential fire hazard when lit.

While Menards’ customers will be able to choose from live or artificial trees this year, he plans on stocking more artificial trees than the latter.

“I think the benefit of being able to store it and pack it up every year, verses having to buy a Christmas tree every year, really helps guests. There’s really no cleanup, and it’s easier to set up,” said Larkin. “But really, it’s up to the guest which one works best for them.”

Menards is located at 12701 Middlebelt Road in Livonia. For more information, visit www.Menards.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.