Over the last few decades, as artificial trees have improved in quality and appearance, Americans have begun moving away from fresh cut trees and investing in reusables for their holiday celebrations. Now, nearly 80% of American households that celebrate with a Christmas tree choose an artificial one. It’s not an entirely modern phenomena of course: Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the US famous for his concern for the country’s environment, was so outraged by the wanton slaughter of trees that he banned his family from engaging in the destructive behavior of cutting a tree only to watch it slowly die inside the house! Today, people are more conscious of the impacts of waste and deforestation, and the carbon costs of transporting goods over long distances. For many households, an artificial tree makes sense.
In Hawaii, there are additional concerns with Christmas trees sent from the mainland. Importing live plants to Hawaii is considered the highest risk pathway for invasive species introductions. Pests, like the semi slug, little fire ants, and coqui frogs, all hitched rides on live plants. Although newer protocols on Christmas tree imports have reduced the number of pests introductions resulting from this particular pathway, there is still always some risk.
Not sure if an artificial tree is right for you? Consider these benefits!
- There is no need to sweep every day! No pine needles, no sap, no spilled water – artificial trees are easy to care for.
- Green that lasts the whole holiday season! No drooping or brown needles.
- No “bad” side to turn to the wall: you will have a beautiful tree from every angle.
- Set-up and storage are a breeze. Artificial trees are made to stand straight, and it’s unlikely the tree will have fallen over while you’re out at the store.
- They are hypoallergenic! Children with asthma or allergies can have reactions to the heavy fragrance or mold spores that can be in live trees. The E.R. is no place to spend the holidays!
- Safety: No dry tinder box of a tree and less of a chance to catch fire.
- You will save money over time. Artificial trees typically last ten years. A cut tree in Hawaii can cost anywhere from $50 to more than $100. On average, an artificial tree is around $250 – it pays for itself in just a few years.
- Missing that fragrant pine scent? That can be resolved too: buy some pine-scented candles. Picking up a scented candle after Thanksgiving can be a new tradition!
Holiday traditions vary by family, culture, and geographic location. One thing remains constant: traditions are learned and passed on through generations. Some traditions stay the same, some are forgotten, and some are tweaked to suit changing needs or values. As an island state, we approach many things differently in Hawaii than on the mainland – including the winter holidays! Although the cut tree may be a familiar and treasured tradition for many, in light of the risk and costs of importing live plants, perhaps the time has come to create new traditions that protect Hawai’i and Mother Earth.
And if you still must have a live tree, we implore you: please buy local!