PLATTSBURGH - Does your Christmas tree belong on the naughty or nice list?
The Christmas tree is the protector of presents, a shelter for Christmas lights and a structure for ornaments that can have a lasting memory in family photos and the hearts of the people who have enjoyed them.
But what will be the lasting impression of that same tree after the lights and tinsel have been taken from the tree? What will be the environmental effect?
Every year, people call the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ask what would be more environmentally friendly - purchasing a living tree or a manufactured tree that can be used for many years.
"There are environmental benefits to using both a real tree and using an artificial tree for the holidays, but in general a real tree will be a lot more beneficial," said Lori Severino, press officer for the DEC. "A lot of people worry about cutting down a tree. We tell them you don't have to worry or feel guilty."
For every tree cut down at a tree farm, Severino explained usually one to three seedlings are planted in its place, continually contributing to the environment.
"If you already have a plastic tree, that is fine because people generally reuse their artificial tree for many years," Severino said. "If possible, we recommend that if someone no longer needs their tree because they are moving and don't want to take it with them or they would like to buy a new tree we suggest that they donate the tree so that other people can use the tree."
"In that way the artificial tree can be recycled, where otherwise it can't," she added.
After the Christmas season, real Christmas trees can continue to contribute to local areas, according to Casella Waste Management market area manager Bill Meyers.
"Yes they are throwing away and discarding it, but a real Christmas tree does get one more useful life where its chipped and mulched down," said Meyers. "They are used here on site for reestablishing vegetation in the areas of the landfill that then get closed out."
Using a real tree benefits the environment, but using artificial trees may still be the preferred option.
Jared Marrone of Plattsburgh said his family chooses to use an artificial tree because it can be reused annually and for the safety of his two small children.
"With Isabella just starting to walk, if we had a real tree I worry that the needles on the tree would hurt her or if the needles fall on the floor she could put them in her mouth," said Marrone. "Because our tree has soft needles and doesn't shed I don't have to worry about that."
When it comes down to it, the DEC suggests keeping your pink glittery tree, as long as you keep it for years to come and not dispose of it too soon, because it's not biodegradable and it can't be recycled.
But if you prefer the real deal, feel no guilt.