Real or fake Christmas tree? That is the question. Read our research and opinion to help decide which is the best sustainable living choice for your family.
My Childhood Experience
One of the family traditions I have insisted on continuing from my childhood is an annual trip to cut down a fresh Christmas tree.
The anticipation of our long, relaxing walk through acres of farmland gives me warm, nostalgic feelings. Most years I prepare a thermos of hot chocolate and we rebel against the holiday rush by sauntering (for hours sometimes) through aisles of aromatic pines.
The search for “the perfect tree” is less about perfection, and more about fun, relaxation, and tradition. Our trip to a tree farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina this year was beyond picturesque and relaxing.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even started to consider other reasons to purchase a real tree at Christmas, I just knew I wanted one. But the more reading and research I did about this holiday tradition, the more sense it made.
Real or Fake Christmas Tree
Let’s examine the facts.
- Each time you purchase a real Christmas tree from an American farm, you are making a contribution to that local economy.
- According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), there are about 15,000 Christmas Tree farms in the U.S., employing over 100,000 individuals.
- The NCTA estimates that over 350,000 acres of farmland in the U.S. are used specifically for farming Christmas trees, preserving valuable green space.
- Real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from the environment and release oxygen into the air. Furthermore, young, fast-growing trees release more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than mature trees. (source)
- Real trees are renewable and recyclable.
- You can purchase a live potted tree that is planted outdoors after Christmas. (We all thought my dad was crazy the first time he did this. After a few years of this seeming foolishness, we realized we had a small forest sprouting beside our house. Perfect for a game of hide and seek. Thanks, Dad!)
- For each real Christmas tree cut down, another is planted in its place to ensure a consistent supply.
- Thousands of recycling programs, also known as “treecycling,” have been started around the country. Some trees are chipped to make biodegradable mulch for parks and playgrounds. Others are used on beaches or river beds to help with sand and soil erosion or act as wind and water barriers. Still, others are used to create a safe habitat and feeding area for aquatic life when sunk in ponds and lakes.
- Planning a trip to cut down a Christmas tree promotes family togetherness and most often becomes a cherished family tradition.
- You may just be blessed enough to live on some land where you can cut a Christmas tree down for free!
- Let’s face it – you can’t beat the fresh pine fragrance a real tree creates in your home.
- Fake trees are produced with petroleum-based plastics. The manufacturing of non-renewable plastics requires natural resources from our environment that we can’t get back once they are gone.
- Most fake trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is known to release toxic byproducts during manufacture. Furthermore, the manufacture of plastic and metal components consumes a great deal of energy.
- Many older artificial trees are contaminated with metal toxins, such as lead.
- Artificial Christmas trees may be used for several years, but eventually, all end up in landfills.
- Fake trees are not biodegradable or recyclable. Once they have become garbage in a landfill, fake trees will remain there for decades.
- Most artificial trees that are sold in the U.S. are shipped from China, Korea, or Taiwan, increasing the environmental impact of these trees even more.
Real Christmas Trees in My House!
In this economy, many families may not want to shell out money for a real Christmas tree, and may instead opt to erect an artificial tree. In my house, this just won’t do. We figure the cost of a fresh tree into our budget each year and eagerly await our tree-cutting field trip. We justify the recurrent cost of a fresh tree by weighing it against the environmental impact of an artificial tree.
We don’t mind the needles on the carpet, the occasional watering, or the sap that might end up on our winter coats. Furniture gets rearranged to make space for the beautiful green giant because it’s a family room staple for about two solid months. Yipeeee!
What about you?
Do you purchase a real or fake Christmas tree and why?
References and Resources:
- “Quick Tree Facts” from the National Christmas Tree Association.