Green thumbs … the Losurdo family looks on as Joe Losurdo holds up his chosen tree at the Dural Christmas Tree Farm while Leo Demasi cuts it down. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
REAL versus fake? When it comes to Christmas trees, the answer is a ''no-brainer'', says Peter Ampt, a University of Sydney expert. ''Real is greener, for sure.''
Most real trees sold in Sydney are grown locally and the required transportation is minimal. In contrast, the majority of artificial trees are made in China, using aluminium and plastics, requiring energy to transport, manufacture and ship to markets around the world, said Mr Ampt, who lectures in natural resource management.
According to the Canadian consultants Ellipsos, a family would have to use a fake tree for 20 years before it would become ''greener'' than a real tree in terms of climate change.
Not quite, said the lobby group representing the US artificial tree industry. Its study found it took only 10 years before a fake tree beat a real one when it came to carbon emissions.
Over a six-year period, Ellipsos found real trees had only one-third of the impact on climate change and resources during their life cycles. They had a positive impact during growth because they stored carbon dioxide, while the biggest cost to the environment was when customers drove them home.
In contrast, fake trees were most harmful during their production stage. Fakes produced about 8.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide a year compared to only 3.1 kilograms for the real tree.
For one Dural family, it's all about the smell. After comparing real and artificial trees, Lucy Losurdo, her husband Joe and three children chose a real tree.
''We walked in tonight, and the smell of tree, it is just beautiful. It smells like Christmas,'' said Mrs Losurdo.
Had she considered which was greener? Not really, although she knew the Dural Christmas Tree Farm, where she bought the tree, would recycle it at no cost.
''It doesn't matter how many times you put it [a fake tree] up and pull it down, it is never going to smell like the real one,'' said Lynette Demasi, whose family owns the farm.
For more than five years, the Dural company supplied a real tree to the Lodge in Canberra, including to the former prime minister John Howard. Now our spies can reveal the Lodge has an artificial Christmas tree.
Julia Gillard is not the only one avoiding the mess of a real tree. At David Jones on Castlereagh Street on Friday, some new styles of eco-friendly artificial trees, including a contemporary-looking LED Christmas two-metre high Paper Tree at $199, were so popular even the floor models had sold out.
How to offset the impact of a fake tree? Ellipsos said it would take from one to three weeks to offset the carbon emissions from both type of trees. For a more eco-friendly option, use a tree in a pot and carefully nurtures his from year to year.