Some would say that the only sustainable Christmas tree is made from things around your house or to decorate a living pine tree outside and leave it alive and growing.
I’m not quite to this point yet, so which is better for the environment, a fake tree or a real tree from a Christmas tree farm.
I was surprised to find this out, but the resounding answer seems to be a real tree from a farm.
I was told as a child that we had to ‘save the trees’. So I assumed we all should buy a fake tree.
And here I am reading these articles that tell me the exact opposite.
And here’s why.
One of the biggest reasons is that you’ll have to use your fake tree for 10-20 years before the environmental cost of its production and shipment are equal to environmental cost of growing a real tree.
But there’s more…
Facts about the Fake Trees:
Most fake trees are made of either PVC plastic (known to have high amounts of lead) and aluminum.
85% of fake trees are imported from China
Shipment of these fake trees increases pollution in our oceans
Takes up to 1,000 years to degrade and are not recyclable
Facts about the Farmed Trees:
Most of the real trees are farmed on land that is otherwise unable to grow other crops
During its growth the tree creates oxygen and removes carbon from the air, helping to offset the carbon cost of shipping
Supports animal life during growth
Are biodegradable and can often be reused as wood chips after the Christmas season
Trees are grown in the U.S. by local farmers supporting the local economy
What about the cost of the Christmas Tree?
The average 6-foot fake Christmas tree will cost $150-$300.
The average 6-foot farmed Christmas tree will cost $50-$80.
What about Fire Safety?
Fake Christmas trees can be just as dangerous as real Christmas trees. This is especially true for fake Christmas trees that are pre-lit. The wiring in the tree can be bent and pinched each and every year during set up and disassembly. When the wiring is exposed it can become hot and plastic is just as flammable as wood.
It’s important to know that these trees need to be shut off and watched just like real trees that dry out.
All Christmas trees are a possible fire hazard and should be monitored as such.
Another thing to consider is that you will have to store the fake Christmas tree rather than donating the farmed Christmas tree to become either wood chips or dropped off at your local green waste recycler.
One final note:
Buying a used fake tree is potentially better for the environment than either of the other options. You’ll increase the life of a fake tree and prevent it from going to the landfill. (I just didn’t find much research about this option)