real vs. fake — the christmas tree debate

real vs. fake — the christmas tree debate

Written By

Heather Mildenstein

The debate over real vs. fake Christmas trees has come up each year, for as long as I can remember.  As with many debates, just when I think I’ve got a handle on which is the correct side, sure enough, I get surprised at the actual facts.  Here are a few facts for you to mull over until the debate comes up again next year when even more studies have been completed.

The Pros and Cons of Artificial 

Cost, convenience and environmental impact are some of the main reasons people opt in to getting an artificial tree.  But GUILT seems to be a major reason for most when they buy their artificial tree. The idea of cutting down a beautiful, living tree simply hurts their sensibilities.

The artificial tree is a true blessing to those with allergies — no more sneezing, sniffing, coughing, eyes burning or headaches (at least due to the tree)

Artificial trees can be very appealing for their investment value, considering the cost of real trees in our current economic times. Their convenience is also a real selling point, as they don’t need watering, don’t leave pine needles all over the floor, and transportation isn’t an issue.  Ready to convert to the artificial tree club?  Let’s first discuss some of the drawbacks…

Today’s artificial trees are typically manufacture with metal and PVC (as in the plastic pipes with which you may be familiar.)  This is a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic.  Also, that old artificial tree in Grandma’s attic may also contain lead.  Artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for centuries after they are thrown away.

The Pros and Cons of Real

Approximately 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America each year according to the U.S. EPA.  You’ll be happy to hear that about there are more than 4,000 recycling programs, where about 93 percent of those trees are recycled.  Recycling a Christmas tree is a leading reason many experts agree they are more environmentally friendly than the artificial ones.  Another name for it is “treecycling”.

Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways.  They can be used for beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization and fish and wildlife habitat.  According to the NCTA, the Christmas tree industry employs more than 100,000 Americans.  This is also an important economic consideration in the real versus fake debate.

Also, let’s not forget the Christmas tree aroma!

Something to be aware of in buying a real Christmas tree — they are farmed as agricultural products, meaning repeated applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers may be used throughout their lifetime.  The ideal tree would be raised organically.  Also, some choose not to deal with the mess of dropping pine needles as Christmas draws closer.

There is also a third option!  You could consider a living, potted tree.  Though it is not feasible for everyone due to climate and land availability, potted trees can be replanted after Christmas.  If you don’t have the land for replanting, your local parks department will likely accept your tree for planting after the holidays.

So, I leave it to you.  Which side of the debate wins, in your opinion?  Real or fake?  Don’t worry — your decision doesn’t need to be set in stone.  Your opinion may change next year.