Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

December 19, 2012 Written by  Comments Print
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With holiday season in full swing, how often are you integrating sustainability? Christmas lights, cards and holiday decorations are often used for a short couple weeks then disposed of or stored for yet another year. What about Christmas trees?

Last year, the American Christmas Tree Association determined American households purchased around 21.6 million real trees and 12.9 million artificial trees. Choosing one or the other is no easy task and there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to which is the most environmental friendly. This blog post will explore the pros and cons of both real and artificial trees.

Real Trees
Real trees have a variety of benefits apart from just aesthetic reasons. They provide a fresh pine scent to the room while improving air quality. As real trees absorb carbon dioxide and harmful gases within the home, they also release fresh oxygen through cellular respiration. With so many trees to choose from, consumers have the ability to switch up tree styles from year to year. In terms of the economy, real trees promote the seasonal Christmas tree industry. Without the purchase of real trees, many local companies would lose business. Keep in mind that next year, a real-tree consumer will have to purchase the tree again.

Most Christmas trees that are sold are cut trees, meaning that they no longer have a root system so they fit in Christmas tree stands. If you’d like to replant the tree after the season, consider getting a bare root Christmas tree. But know that the success of your replanting efforts will depend on how many roots were left on and whether or not the tree has already dried out. Potted trees and pot grown Christmas trees are your best bet if you hope to plant it directly into the ground.

Christmas trees are biodegradable and recyclable. Once the holiday season has passed, it can be used as firewood for the coming weeks of cold weather.

According to the Washington State University website, “nationally, one million acres of land is used for Christmas tree harvest.” While many turn to artificial trees because they think it’s better for the environment, did you know that most Christmas trees are grown as crops and replanted? Permits are also given for areas that need to be thinned.

Although some consumers use tree needles in gardens as fertilizer, the falling needles do require maintenance. Trees can also require fuel to be shipped and depending on where they were farmed, might contain pesticides.

If dried out, trees can be flammable and must be properly positioned to avoid fires. Keep indoor trees well watered and extension cords and light strings away from the water.

Since hot bulbs can pose a possible danger on dry tree branches, consider switching to LED lights as they use 10 times less energy than incandescent mini-lights. If this isn’t an option for you, consider replacing larger bulbs with the new mini lights. They last longer and use about 70% less energy.

Artificial Trees
Artificial trees can be seen as more of an investment as they do not require a new purchase every year. According to MSN Money, the average real tree is about $34 and the average artificial tree is about $70.55. The initial price discrepancy is overcome if an artificial tree is used for more than two years. No matter how long you choose to keep your artificial tree, it’s important to note that most end up in a landfill.

Did you also know that artificial trees are constructed using petroleum? If you choose this option, The Daily Green recommends buying one made in the US to greatly decrease the chances for contamination with lead or other toxins. This also preserves manufacturing jobs here in the states and reduces shipping costs.

Choose to make your holidays more sustainable with a Christmas tree that best suits your sustainability preferences! Check out our previous blog post DIY Energy Saving Tips: Know Your Thermostat.

Remember to stay safe and enjoy the holidays!