The idea of environmental lifecycle assessments is a good one. It provides the potential for engineers and consumers to make educated decisions about which products really are good or bad for the environment. Case in point: When environmental activists sought bans on foamed cups used for coffee, they were clearly barking up the wrong tree. A Canadian lifecycle assessment showed that foamed plastic cups had much less effect on the environment than the paper cups that were ushered in. Not that the study did a lot of good. Foamed cups are still pariahs, and adding insult to injury, many people used double paper cups to get the insulation value of a single foamed cup.
Now there’s a new head scratcher.
The American Christmas Tree Association, which represents producers of artificial trees, has released a report contending “that a consumer using an average artificial Christmas tree has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than a consumer using average farm-grown Christmas trees.” Facts were compared on most commonly sold 6-foot artificial Christmas tree, manufactured in China, to 6-foot real Christmas trees grown locally in the United States. The report on the group’s Web site lacks details, but I assume the study is based on a 10-year use of an artificial tree. Presumably, the study assumes real trees are trucked in from some remote location to an urban location. That happens 10 times. And then the consumer drives to and from the retail store selling the trees 10 times. OK. Maybe. But what about the carbon dioxide sequestration value of those ten trees?
What’s even weirder is that the artificial trees are made from PVC. Most design engineers are being told to avoid use of PVC because of potential dioxin effects when it’s incinerated.
The American Christmas Tree Association gets my Chutzpah of the Year Award,