eco: Real vs. Artificial Tree
|by Megan McCoy Dellecese
Until now. It seems that one side has a slight
edge over the other, and it might come as a surprise that the suggestion is this: go natural. Yup.
According to Growing a Greener World, the
environmental impact of a faux Christmas tree
far outweighs the concept that you’re actually
cutting down a tree. Most fake trees don’t biodegrade when they are finally disposed of, unlike
real trees. These trees are also made with potentially toxic materials, namely PVC plastics made
from petroleum and heavy metals mined from
the earth, sometimes including lead. Some states
even require labeling that trees are hazardous to
The fact that many cities, towns and villages
mulch Christmas trees when they’re discarded
gives the real trees two lives; one as a heartwarming holiday remembrance, the other in
townwide planting. Also, given the complex
chore of simply getting a cut tree home, it can be
assumed that we tend to purchase them locally.
In comparison, the average store-bought cardboard-packaged artificial tree has traveled thousands of miles (often from China) to reach the
store, then several more miles to grandmother’s
house we go. It may not sound like much, but
the energy used to get that tree to its final destination adds up.
If these facts aren’t enough, the numbers may
be the best proof yet to switch to natural. This
Treehugger article cites that the greenhouse gases produced by a natural tree, at 3.1 kg per year,
are far less than an artificial tree, at 8.1 kg per
year. Interestingly, it even states that an artificial
tree would need to be kept for at least 20 years
in order to have lower contributions to climate
change than the natural alternative. The current
average for each fake tree’s usage is 6 years.
But, really, what matters in the end is what the
tradition looks like to each of us. We can take
this information to heart and make a concerted
effort to “go natural” this holiday season. We
can also decide that our year-round efforts are
enough, and that this one choice towards the
artificial isn’t a life-altering deal. We could also
take it one step further and drastically decide to
deck the halls in a manner that avoids both options, going tree-free or by decorating an outside evergreen instead.
Whatever you choose is what’s right. This season
is about our very personal choices in creating
tradition, and if you were raised with a multicolored strung fake tree, go for it! If you were
raised with the scent of fresh pine and sticky
sap fingers filling the trough with water, enjoy
it! But, let’s put this one eco-debate to rest once
and for all.
Photography by Richard Hutchings Photography
We all have a different idea of what a traditional
Christmas looks like. Some take solace while
packing their tree away that it will be re used
year after year, saving money and the lives of
beautiful evergreen forests. Others feel the
connection to nature while hunting down the
perfect tree, safe in the knowledge that their
tree will provide mulch after it has performed
its cheerful holiday duty. And so far, both sides
have seemed accurate in their assumptions.