O Christmas Tree: Plastic or Real?

December 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

This holiday season, people all across the world will be decorating Christmas trees in their home. According to a surprising statistic from NYTimes, a majority of those trees will be fake. I don’t know if this shocks me simply because I come from an area that has lots of tree farms around, but I was under the assumption that it was always preferable to get a real tree, and not that hard to find one.

Anyway, the real question at stake is this: is it more environmentally friendly to buy a plastic tree or a real one? The argument for plastic trees is that they get reused on a yearly basis, and don’t cause the cutting down of an innocent christmas tree somewhere else. But turns out, there are strong arguments in favor of buying a real tree, year after year, and still having a smaller carbon footprint. NPR‘s StateImpact project wrote this interesting article, and I’ll highlight the basics below:

True: Plastics get reused yearly. And they avoid a tree from getting cut down for each year you use it.


1) Plastic trees are known to have PVC in them, a harmful substance that has traces of lead in it and other controversial chemicals.

2) Plastic trees are being shipped to your town/city from a large factory, most likely in China, where the carbon footprint of the tree becomes exorbitantly large. We’re talking more than 2,000 pounds of fuel! (and according to this NYTimes study, only after 20 years of reusing that fake tree would you have balanced out the carbon costs of cutting real trees–and fakes rarely last 20 years)

3) Furthermore, real trees can be recycled and are used as mulch or for other purposes. Fake trees, on the other hand, are difficult to recycle and usually end up in a land fill for who knows how long…

4) Lastly, it’s not just about the environmental effect, but it’s about where your money is going! If you buy a fake tree, you’re giving your money to a large corporation, supporting their pollution and market monopoly. On the other hand, supporting your local family tree farm is a great way to engage with the community as well as support a local business and keep your carbon footprint clean.

So this holiday season, do yourself and the planet a favor by buying a REAL christmas tree to celebrate in style! The smell of those pine needles will be worth it 🙂


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