For many, the Christmas tree is a quintessential part of the holiday season. According to the American Christmas Tree Association, 81% of Christmas trees Americans decorated in 2016 were artificial. But are artificial trees really the better option for the environment?
The short answer is no. But it’s really more complicated than that. The answer ultimately depends on a variety of factors.
If you elect to go with an artificial tree, you need to use it for a very long time. One study suggests a fake tree would need to be reused 8 or 9 years to make it the more environmentally-friendly option. Another study suggests two decades.
Artificial trees are made from toxic and non-recyclable materials. Seek out fake trees manufactured with polyethylene plastic (or PE), as it is not as toxic as polyvinyl chloride (or PVC). And since 85% of fake trees are imported from China, look for a “Made in USA” label to reduce the carbon footprint.
If you decide to go for a real tree, shop local. This keeps the carbon footprint low and helps support community businesses in the process. It’s important to recognize that real Christmas trees are a crop – grown for the purpose of being cut down – and that the life of a tree is not being preserved by going artificial. And while some tree farms do spray, researchers say the use of pesticides in tree production is relatively low. Real trees can also be composted or recycled afterwards.
So will it be real or fake this year? Tell us which and why!
Photo, posted December 12, 2010, courtesy of Paul Simpson via Flickr.