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Keepin' It Real

Real Christmas trees are the sustainable choice for the holidays, environmental experts say.

Campus News  |  Dec 20, 2012  |  By Megan Downs

The Rebel Recycling Center on the UNLV campus will help you properly dispose of your Christmas Tree. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

Editor's Note: 

Want to recycle your tree? Here's where.


Take pride in vacuuming the pine needles off the living room floor this winter. Buying that real tree for the holidays was the environmentally friendly and economically savvy way to go, experts say.

Artificial trees usually end up in a landfill just six to nine years after they were purchased, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA). And, nearly 85 percent were manufactured outside of the United States.

Experts say it’s better for the environment and the national economy when trees are purchased from local vendors and then recycled for reuse in local parks, playgrounds, and other landscaping efforts.

“Recycling trees helps conserve water, helps our local parks, saves taxpayer money, and cuts down on (carbon dioxide) emissions,” said Tara Pike-Nordstrom, Rebel Recycling program manager, who also heads the county’s tree recycling effort. “This is great way to give back to the community and support this valleywide effort.”

More than 17,500 Christmas tree farms operate in the United States, generating more than $1 billion to the U.S. economy, according to NCTA. Nearly 450 million trees grow on these farms, producing 5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of taking almost 400,000 cars off the road.

UNLV works with Christmas tree vendors, government partners, grocery stores and other organizations, to ensure that Clark County citizens recycle their trees at one of 24 locations, including the Rebel Recycling Center on the UNLV campus. 

Recycling includes:

  • 17,320— number of trees recycled countywide in 2011, an 11 percent increase over 2010
  • 2,309— cubic yards of solid waste diverted from local landfills, roughly the equivalent of nine school buses
  • 151 — tons of mulch created from chipped trees, now being used for landscaping projects and dust control, saving the community money and creating a healthy environment
  • 111,723 — Christmas trees recycled since the program began in 2001. This is the equivalent of more than 12,6000 cubic yards of solid waster diverted from landfills and 822 tons of mulch created

Learn more about the Las Vegas Christmas Tree Recycling Campaign.