Gallery: POLL: What Kind of Tree Should Light Up Rockefeller Center Dur...

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and that means only one thing, the annual holiday green-off is about to occur — the questions abound, from is tofurkey better than a locally grown grass-fed real bird, to what’s the greenest way to wrap my unnecessarily large gifts? The mother of all of the green holiday questions is highlighted by the arrival of the annual holiday tree to Rockefeller Center. This year, the famous tree is a 75-foot tall, 75 year-old Norway Spruce from Mifflinville, Pennsylvania. We’ve been discussing whether or not the real tree is the greenest option and would like to put it to you, dear readers, as a vote. Do you think it would be better for Rockefeller Center to use a plastic-derived-from-oil fake tree that probably contains PVC and was manufactured in a fume-spewing factory or a naturally beautiful real-forest pine violently cut down with a chain saw and dragged by a semi-truck hundreds of miles to New York City? Or perhaps no tree at all. Cast your vote below and then read on for more stats on holiday trees.

What kind of Christmas tree should Rockefeller Center use?

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The Rockefeller Christmas tree traditional unofficially began in a very green way in 1931 when the depression era workers that were building Rockefeller Center decorated a 20-foot tall pine with, “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans,” on Christmas Eve, according to Daniel Okrent, a historian who wrote a book about The Rock. The historical fight between fake and real christmas trees goes back not quite as far, but it is a pretty heated debate. The conundrum is complex and almost indecipherable as each person in their individual situation would garner a different carbon footprint from each choice.

Take for example someone living in a small town in New England with a local cut-your-own tree farm that has transformed an empty agricultural field into a nursery. It is much better for them to drive four miles and cut down a tree that will be directly replaced by another carbon eating pine when the snow melts than to buy a plastic pine that was shipped from who knows where and is not, I repeat not, recyclable. But then you’ve got the city dweller, who’s tree comes from an unknown farm somewhere far outside their urban area — perhaps even a plane, train or boat ride away — that’s plopped down on at a sidewalk tree sale that has 24-7 Christmas lighting eating up unsustainable power from the grid. Maybe the plastic one is better for the city folk.

But for the Rockefeller Center tree, we just can’t decide. We’ll note here that at least the tree is decked out in LED lights and not power sucking incancesdents. But would a ten-ton hunk of plastic and metal be better than a ten-ton product of nature ripped from its roots? Or perhaps you’d rather a recycled beer bottle tree a la this beauty from Shanghai instead, or perhaps you should rent a tree or maybe the greenest of them all, buy a tree which you’ll plant outside when spring rolls around. We’re thinking the last choice might be out of the realm of possibility for Rockefeller Center’s behemoth. What do you think?

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  1. meejahn November 19, 2011 at 10:25 am

    I think a contest to design a sustainable and comparable replacement to the tradition real tree is in order! Does anyone know what NYC does with the tree after the holiday season?

  2. Bridgette Meinhold November 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Although I’m definitely not in favor a petroleum based fake tree, maybe there are other material options to create a reusable tree? Maybe a wood and metal based modular tree system that can pack down easily for storage 10 months of the year? Parts that get worn out could easily be recycled and replaced? The tree is so iconic though that it would be sad to have nothing at all.