Which is Better: Real or Fake Christmas Trees

Camille Socol

At the beginning of the holiday season you are faced with a huge decision: to purchase a real or artificial tree, a daunting decision. You could hand select a tree from a farm because of its smell or buy one from the store because of its lighting design and dusting of fake snow on plastic branches. Since the 1980s, more and more homes have gone for fake Christmas trees; applauding the ease of setup, reusability, and pre-lit lighting but looking deeper, fake trees’ negatives outweigh the positives.

At first, you may think a fake tree seems more beneficial. They can be used for many years and there’s never a pile of needles scattered across the floor after the holiday season. There are many people who are allergic to pine needles and choose a fake tree to reduce their risk of an allergic reaction. There are definitely perks to a fake tree: less hassle, less mess, but the ease of an artificial tree does not overshadow their environmental impact.

Artificial trees are made from polyvinyl chloride plastic or PVC; a petroleum based plastic that is known for its durability. Unfortunately, this means that these trees are not biodegradable. Instead, they will sit in landfills and after a few hundred years, split into smaller pieces of plastic that are just as harmful for the environment. In order to offset the emissions produced by a single tree, a household must own the tree for ten years. According to the Christmas ornament production company, Old World Christmas, ‘ the average lifespan of an artificial tree is around six years in reality. Most artificial trees are produced overseas in China, the transportation overseas adds even more carbon emissions into the atmosphere. While fake trees seem like a better idea: less costly in the long run and it saves you the annual trip to the christmas tree farm, their pros do not outweigh the cons.

The other option is to splurge for a real tree. The benefits of a real tree are astounding. For many they are an annual family tradition; heading to the christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree to take home. The needles let off a strong scent that screams ‘Christmas’ through homes. And perhaps the best part, they are one hundred percent biodegradable. Once the Christmas season is finished, the trees are gathered up and broken down into wood chips or fertilizer, and sometimes the neighborhood zoo animals receive them as an end-of-holiday-treat.

The idea of cutting down so many Christmas trees every year might spark fears about mass logging. However, these trees are specifically grown for Christmas time. According to One Tree Planted, an organization who plants trees and advocates against logging across the world. ‘Most Christmas tree farms are on a seven year rotation. They are constantly growing new trees for every tree they cut down,’ Perhaps the best thing about tree farms is that while the trees are growing, they are pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and reducing emissions.

There are of course downsides to a real tree. They are much more of a fire hazard since they will dry out and turn to timber without proper watering. Not to mention the age-old struggle of tying it to the roof of the car and dragging it home, pulling it through the front door without losing all the branches and setting it up. There will always be a pile of needles that will end up on the floor. They are also more expensive; a fifty to several hundred dollar tree each year or a few hundred dollars for an artificial tree that will hopefully last a decade. It is no secret that real trees will cost you more over time than an artificial tree.

While there are definitely positives and negatives to both options, a third, more unconventional option has come up. Instead of chopping down a tree, some places offer households to rent a tree in a pot for the holiday season. This saves the trouble of cutting it down and allows it to continue to grow for years on end. A similar solution is to purchase a live tree and plant it after the holiday season. A third option is to use a different plant: decorate an indoor palm or a fern. It may stray from the conventional tree but decorating a house plant is cheaper in cost, labor, and carbon emissions.

There are so many ways to decorate for the Christmas season: string lights across the roof, wreaths, and maybe a blow-up Santa in the front yard. Yet nothing seems more important than the decorated Christmas tree. While modern times have brought modern tree methods, they certainly come with their fair share of benefits and problems. Keeping cost, labor, upkeep, and the environmental impact in the type of christmas tree you decorate are all important parts of the tree-buying experience. All in all, finding the best option will make the holiday season as best as it can be.