It’s Christmas season again, and many still wonder if it’s better to buy a real or fake tree for the festivities. Each has its own advantages over the other, but according to a lot of research on the topic, there is a clear winner, and it may surprise you.
For those in a hurry, the quick answer is that a real Christmas tree is better for the environment. For the long answer, keep reading.
Advantages Of Buying A Real Christmas Tree
1. Buying A Real Christmas Tree Supports Forests
This might seem counterintuitive, but purchasing a real tree actually supports forests. The Christmas tree industry is huge with approximately 30 million real trees sold each season. Yet, that’s only a small portion of what these farms grow.
In reality, these farms grow between 300 and 500 million trees and keep them planted year-round. The tree lost each season are only a small portion of what is grown.
In fact, for each tree cut down, typically 3 more seedlings are planted in its place.
2. Less Emissions Than An Artificial Tree
The average artificial tree creates 40 greenhouse gases (in kg), where a real tree’s emissions depend on its disposal. The least friendly way is to dump it in a landfill. There, it will produce 16 greenhouse gasses.
That’s less than half of an artificial tree.
The other ways include burning it or finding another purpose for the tree such as composting or as a zoo exhibit.
Disadvantages of Buying An Artificial Christmas Tree
1. Most Arrtificial Trees Are Prodced Overseas
In just the United States, approximately 20 million artificial Christmas trees are sold each year. The majority of these trees make the long journey from overseas factories and then need to undergo further transportation to wind up in your local store.
The emissions that come from just transportation are higher than the effect of cutting down a young tree.
2. Many People Do Not Reuse Their Artificial Christmas Tree
One of the main advantages of artificial trees is that they can be reused, but only 54% actually reuse them according to Americans. Thus, the other 46% are buying a new one each year, which explains why so many artificial trees are sold annually.
Since the number of emissions to just produce the tree are higher than cutting down a real one, they can have a huge impact on emissions.
3. Most Artificial Trees Are Not Recyclable
One of the biggest problems with artificial Christmas trees is that they are not recyclable. They are made with the purpose of being reused, which should be positive, but that means they are made with materials that can’t be recycled easily.
If this were to change, this argument may actually flip in favor of artificial trees.
This Doesn’t Mean an Artificial Christmas Tree Is a Terrible Choice
While real Christmas trees are more environmentally friendly, it doesn’t mean artificial trees are terrible. If you reuse them for multiple years, they can be a great option for families, especially those on a budget.
They can also be resold to thrift shops for other families to use when you are ready to upgrade. The problem is that data suggests that a lot of people don’t do this.
Make it a family tradition to pick out a live tree and support local forests in your area.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.