Artificial vs. Real Christmas Trees: The ‘Greener’ Choice

The holiday season is in full swing! Many people have already purchased a Christmas tree for their home, or will be bringing one home soon. The world we live in is ever-shifting towards a more Eco-conscious one, but does that carry over to holiday decor choices as well? I recently overheard a discussion regarding whether or not one should purchase an artificial Christmas tree in order to lessen their impact on the environment. The quick answer: no! Although there are many benefits to owning an artificial tree (no need to water it, many are pre-lit, etc.) being ‘greener’ than a natural tree is not one of them.

The most common misconception about artificial trees is that since they are reused year after year, they must be better for the environment than cutting down a new Christmas tree each year. There have been various studies proving this wrong, such as Ellipsos Inc. “Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Christmas trees, A study ends the debate over which Christmas tree, natural or artificial, is most ecological. This study took into account many factors pertinent to the environmental impact of a natural Christmas tree versus that of an artificial tree, and found that an artificial tree would have to stick around for 20 years to be considered more Eco-friendly than a natural tree!

Sure, it takes energy to grow a natural tree from a seedling. However, they’re considered carbon neutral due to the amount of carbon they scrub from the air over their lifetime. Natural Christmas trees take up land and use nutrients from the soil, it’s true. The land they’re planted on is often times unsuitable for other crops, though, and often times provides valuable green space near cities that would otherwise have been developed years ago. Many people feel guilty about cutting down a tree only to discard it after the holidays, but keep in mind that these trees are grown specifically for that purpose. Unlike artificial Christmas trees, which aren’t recyclable and will spend centuries in a landfill, most natural trees are ‘treecycled’ and used for mulch, erosion control, or soil additives.

I could go on and on, but truth be told there are many reasons people choose the Christmas tree that’s best for their family. Some families decorate potted plants instead of a traditional tree, and some have multiple trees throughout the house. There are even services for renting live Christmas trees with roots and all! Whatever your family’s tradition, the most important thing is enjoying your holiday season with those who matter most.

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