Category Archives: Pros and Cons of Real and Fake Christmas Trees

The Sustainable Debate Between Real or Artificial Holiday Trees

It’s time to deck the halls for the holidays and for many, that also means tree trimming. If you’re wondering whether it’s more environmentally friendly to buy a real tree or an artificial one, read on for some important considerations. In the long run, it’s really the habits of the individual consumer that matter most when it comes to sustainability.

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Transportation Considerations

How far you drive to get your evergreen is a big consideration. Artificial trees are shipped once and you only drive to the store to purchase it once. Additionally, many consumers do not throw away an artificial tree each year. In fact, on average many use their artificial tree for 7 to 10 years, which make this a sustainable option. Live trees, on the other hand, are shipped yearly or you will make the annual trip to the tree farm to cut down your perfect holiday spruce. While some tree farms may be located a few blocks away, others may be a considerable distance from where you live. In addition to transportation costs, your car emits carbon emissions each time you drive to the tree lot, thus increasing the greenhouse effect, which contributes to climate change.

Disposal Considerations

Another large debate is the life cycle of artificial and real trees. Artificial trees are not recyclable or biodegradable and thus, they sit in our landfills for centuries. However, the length of ownership before disposal affects the cradle-to-grave methodology and environmental impacts.  Artificial trees that are kept for 10 years or more are often just as sustainable as live ones bought and recycled each year. Conversely, there are many sustainable options to recycle live trees, such as turning them into mulch for use in landscaping or gardening or wood chips for playground material or walkways. Mulch products aid in water conservation in both domestic and commercial applications and are also great for fish and wildlife habitats. The results really come down to how you choose to dispose of the tree. If your holiday traditions include purchasing a real tree, after disposal, leave the pesty pine needle cleanup to the professionals.

Chemical Considerations

The final consideration are the harmful chemicals used to produce both types of trees. Artificial trees are often made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). However, live trees aren’t much better, as they often contain fertilizers and pesticides. The best sustainable option in this case is purchasing an organically grown live tree. Those opting to purchase an artificial tree, should research the manufacturer carefully beforehand to ensure that it does not contain dangerous chemicals and that there manufacturing process is environmentally friendly.

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