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Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree

November 27, 2019

Real vs Artificial? The Greener Choice

In the current state of climate change, it’s becoming more important to consider the environment when evaluating our buying choices. And this time of year, at the center of this debate, is the role of the beloved Christmas tree. Which is the greener choice? Real or artificial?


As the centerpiece of the holiday season, the Christmas tree tradition cannot be ignored. After all, it’s where the presents go. It’s the family tradition of going and selecting the perfect tree and bringing it home.  And what about enjoying the fresh piney scent? And the twinkle of the lights on a cold snowy night certainly cannot be skipped.

So, if you’re putting up a tree, which is better for the environment?

Some think that cutting down a tree is bad for the environment, but tree farms are actually very good for the planet. Primarily they help keep our air clean by taking in excess carbon dioxide (pollution) and then releasing oxygen for us to breath.  Because it can take up to ten years for a tree to reach 6 feet, these tree farms are not only cleaning a substantial amount of air in their lifetime, but they’re also becoming habitat for wildlife, creating watersheds, preserving farmland, and providing jobs. Once the tree is cut, it’s re-planted immediately to begin the process over again. Recycling your tree keeps it out of the landfill and becomes mulch or wood chips which will break down in the soil over time.  Buying real also supports our local US economy and keeps plastic out of the landfill.

If you’re considering buying an artificial tree, you might want to think about its origins. Most artificial trees are made of PVC and steel in China and then shipped to the US. The process of fusing the plastic with steel makes recycling the tree impossible with current technology.  Keeping your tree for many years helps offset the impact, but it will eventually still end up in the landfill where it will take hundreds of years to break down.

fresh cut christmas trees

We’re going to side with Tim O’Connor of the National Christmas Tree Association, who said it was “fall-off-your-horse simple that a tree made out of oil, turned into PVC plastic in China and shipped over on a boat, cannot be better than growing a real tree.”    

Photo by Jacob Biba for The New York Times