Category Archives: Sustainability

Real versus artificial Christmas trees

Farmed Christmas trees are grown specifically for the purpose of being used as a decoration and do far more to benefit you and the environment. (Photo by Angela Todd)

Farmed Christmas trees are grown specifically for the purpose of being used as a decoration and do far more to benefit you and the environment. (Photo by Angela Todd)

The holidays are upon us, and with them comes the task of decorating. East Carolina University arborist and grounds supervisor Gene Stano helps answer a question many homes face this time of year – is purchasing a real tree or artificial tree better for the environment?

Stano, a former Christmas tree farmer, says many people are under the impression that using an artificial tree saves a real tree from being cut down and is better for the environment. However, farmed Christmas trees are grown specifically for the purpose of being used as a decoration and do far more to benefit you and the environment in the process.

Real Christmas Trees

  • Real Christmas trees continue to filter the air and produce oxygen inside your home. “It’s still alive for a while,” said Stano. “It continually tries to support itself as long as it can. When you bring a real tree into your house it is providing oxygen to your home and cleaning the air. It does the same things that it would do outside, just at a diminished capacity as it slowly dies down.”
  • Real Christmas trees can be recycled in many ways. They can be placed on beaches and river banks to help prevent erosion. They can also be turned into mulch, which improves soil quality and ensures that the nutrients found in the tree are returned to the environment.
  • In western North Carolina, Christmas tree farms are replacing old and unused farming land that was originally cleared to grow other crops, such as tobacco. “You’re taking care of farm land that would have sat fallow and eroded and had all kinds of other problems and turning into a useful area,” said Stano. The trees filter the air and their root systems help prevent flooding by absorbing excess rain water that otherwise would have nowhere to go in an empty field.

Artificial Trees

  • Most artificial trees are made from a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It is non-recyclable and according the 14th Report on Carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program, PVC is a known human carcinogen.
  • The U.S. Commerce Department reports that 85 percent of artificial Christmas trees are imported from China. Buying trees grown by North Carolina farmers helps support the local economy and reduces environmental impact by eliminating the need to burn fuel for transcontinental transportation.

Some people may not be able to tolerate a real tree in their home because of allergies or other medical reasons. However, if you are able to have a real tree in your home this holiday season, it is an option that’s certainly worth looking into, Stano said.

“A real tree is doing what it can to help in the environment as opposed to an artificial one,” said Stano. “Even if you keep an artificial one for 10 years, you eventually have to pitch it. And then guess where it goes? Right into the landfill.”

 

-by Angela Todd, University Communications 

ECU receives Tree Campus USA designation

Students participating in the Tree Campus USA designation ceremony. (Photos by Chad Carwein)

Students participating in the Tree Campus USA designation ceremony. (Photos by Chad Carwein)

East Carolina University has officially earned the Tree Campus USA designation by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the first time in university history. Only 12 total North Carolina institutions of higher education can claim this certification, which was celebrated during a recent tree-planting ceremony on campus.

East Carolina University's Grounds Team planting a tree on campus for Arbor Day.

East Carolina University’s Grounds Team planting a tree on campus for Arbor Day.

To qualify, ECU staff worked over the past year to meet Tree Campus USA standards. Standards include a Campus Tree Advisory Committee including students, faculty, facility management and at least one community member. A tree care plan was developed containing the policies for planting, landscaping, maintenance and removal of the trees on campus. (To see ECU’s Tree Care Plan click here.)

For the third and fourth standards ECU needed to have dedicated annual expenditures and extend community education efforts through an Arbor Day event.

Lastly, the university needed to complete a variety of Service Learning Projects. ECU met this standard through the following tree planting events on campus: Earth Day (April 20, 2016) and ReLeaf Community Tree Day (March 18, 2017).

For more information about Tree Campus USA, please visit www.arborday.org or contact John Gill, Director of ECU Grounds Department at (252) 737-1179 or gillj@ecu.edu.

 

–by Chad Carwein, ECU Sustainability

Save the date for ECU’s Earth Week

We’ve got a week full of activities lined up to celebrate Earth Day! Bring your hammock or a blanket and join us outside the MSC starting at 8:30 p.m. on April 19. During this event, you can register to win a free ENO Hammock.  On April 20 we willl be out at Barefoot on the Mall to keep the party going with some great live music performances. Join us on Earth Day, April 22 for one of two community service oppurtunities with the ECU Adventure Program.

Help us spread the word about all the fun activities we have planned for Earth Week here at ECU! For more details on all of our amazing Earth Day events:  http://calendar.ecu.edu/event/earth_day_fest_8211

 

 

 

-by Chad G. Carwein, University Sustainability Manager