NEWS

Fake vs real Christmas trees: Take your pick

The dilemma «artificial or real Christmas tree» is one which many of us thought we had solved after being persuaded that it was acceptable to buy plantation trees especially grown for the Christmas market – the plantations ensure that the land is used for growing trees and more are planted when each one is cut. But for the owners of the Biocafe in the capital of the island of Corfu, it seems that the issue is not so simple. In a letter to the mayor of Corfu, Dimitris Fanariotis and Theofanis Bogdos protested at the use of real trees to decorate the town squares, even if they are from a plantation. They are also concerned, they say, at the practice of cutting down cedar trees in the island’s wetlands to decorate homes. «We are amazed at how easily the municipality’s parks service grows trees in order to cut them down and use them as decoration but completely fails to replace trees that have been illegally removed from various parts of the main town in recent years. Environmental organizations tell us that many of these trees withered after weed-killers and various other poisons were used on them,» they said. They feel that the municipality’s parks service should be planting trees that will stay in the ground, rather than be cut down for decorative purposes. «The service should also plant two trees for every one that has been destroyed. They should be forest trees, the same as those that have been removed. Under no circumstances should hybrids be planted or other species that are foreign to the island’s native vegetation,» they added. They have also requested the removal of a Christmas tree that the municipality has placed outside their cafe, even though they were told that it had been grown on a plantation.» «We are against any trees being cut down for Christmas,» Fanariotis told Kathimerini English Edition yesterday. Are they overreacting? According to the website oikologio.gr, an online, independent citizens’ initiative set up after last summer’s fires, «Christmas» fir trees come from plantations and from the clearing of brush underneath high-tension lines in order to reduce the risk of fire from sparks, or are cleared from chestnut forests, which are often located next to stands of firs that gradually infiltrate the chestnut forests, using up the water and nutrients in the soil. No legally sold tree for the Christmas market has been cut from natural woodland. Fir plantations are mostly situated at Taxiarchis in Halkidiki, Pertouli in Trikala and various other areas where there are chestnut forests, such as Tymphrystos in central Greece. Many of these plantations are at high altitudes where nothing else can be cultivated. They provide a living for the local populations who would otherwise be forced to move away. Artificial trees, on the other hand, are made from non-renewable resources, their manufacture releases toxins into the atmosphere and creates waste, both solid and liquid. Moreover they do not biodegrade. They can be used over and over again, and even be recycled, but the latter process requires large amounts of energy. Oikologio.gr therefore feels that the balance is in favor of the natural Christmas trees. What shoppers must watch out for, however, are the lead seals which the law requires must be tied to every tree cut from a plantation; it indicates the origin of the tree. Prefer locally grown to imported trees. You’ll not only be supporting Greek farmers but reducing the emission of greenhouse gases released in transporting from one country to another. Meanwhile the municipality has not removed the tree in front of the Biocafe, said Fanariotis, «but they have promised that next year they will use the traditional Greek Christmas boat instead.» Further info on the fake/real dilemma: «Should I buy a fake fir?» in Slate online magazine www.slate.com/id/-2180086/nav/tap3/[email protected]