Christmas Trees: are Fake or Real better for the Planet?

Every year around this time, a national debate starts over which is better: a real, live Christmas Tree or an artificial, plastic Christmas Tree? We all have our opinions on which tree is better, but if you are going to buy a fake tree because you think it is good for the environment, you’ll want to reconsider.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, which represents growers and retailers of real trees, if you want to be eco-friendly, you are much better off buying a real tree. Real trees are a natural agricultural crop. Real Christmas Trees are both renewable and recyclable, with many cities offering to take your old tree and turn it into compost, mulch, and fish habitats.

Unfortunately, many people have the misconception that Christmas Trees are part of deforestation, but that’s incorrect. In the USA, Christmas Trees are grown as crops, just like soybeans or corn. Once the trees are cut down, new seedlings are planted and grown to replace the harvested trees. Approximately 400 million trees are grown on Christmas Tree farms in the United States, with 30 million trees harvested each year. The living trees generate oxygen, store carbon, and provide habitats for birds and animals.

Fake Christmas Trees, while convenient, are non-renewable, non-biodegradable, plastic products manufactured almost exclusively in Asia. For an artificial Christmas Tree to be eco-friendlier than buying a real tree, it would have to be reused for over 20 years.

The annual carbon emissions from using a real tree Christmas Tree every year are a third of those created by plastic trees since most artificial trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal.

So, forget the debate over real vs. fake! Go with the eco-friendly choice: A real, live Christmas Tree grown in North America. To find the closest Christmas Tree Farm to you, click here for the NCTA’s Christmas Tree Locator.