Real Vs Artificial Christmas Tree: Which One Is More Eco-Friendly?

Every December, people inevitably have the same conversation: real vs artificial Christmas tree? There’s a consistent idea that fake Christmas trees are better for the environment, as well as being more convenient. But is it really a more sustainable choice? Find out below.

Real vs artificial Christmas Tree – What to Choose?

At a glance, artificial Christmas trees seem great – they’re easy to put up, you can reuse the same tree forever, there’s no need to chop down new trees each year… the list goes on. What isn’t often discussed is the intensive carbon emissions required to first produce and then ship fake trees. In comparison, real Christmas trees are actively absorbing carbon. While it isn’t enough to solve our emissions problem, real trees are improving our situation while fake trees are adding to it.

If you’re concerned about chopping down too many trees, know this: only about 30 million trees are cut down for Christmas trees per year, but there are about 350 to 500 million growing at any given time. When you support these tree farms, you’re supporting keeping lands covered in forest habitats, protecting wildlife.

Then there’s the issue of what to do with the tree after Christmas. Artificial trees are rarely recyclable, which means that once they reach the end of their useful life, they end up in landfills. While the idea is that we can use the tree forever, people might throw them out because the lights no longer work, they’ve upgraded to a bigger and better tree, or because they’re moving – there are tons of reasons to consider. 

In comparison, there are donation options for real Christmas trees that contribute to conservation. Check with your local government for policies in your area. Even if you were to trash your real tree, at the very least it is compostable.

To put things into perspective, real Christmas trees can produce a carbon footprint of 16kg of CO2 if thrown into a landfill, or 3.5kg of CO2 if properly disposed of via planting (if it has roots), woodchipping, or burning. The same size plastic tree would have a CO2 footprint of 40kg of CO2. You can’t argue with the numbers – real Christmas trees are much more eco-friendly.

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Already Have a Plastic Christmas Tree?

If you already have an artificial Christmas tree, there’s no need to rush out for a real one. As with other plastic products you might already own, it’s always best to use what you have first. Make it last as long as possible to avoid additional CO2 emissions. 

When you’re ready to get rid of the tree, try to be responsible. Give it to someone who wants to use a fake tree to avoid driving demand for more fake trees. If it’s totally beyond use, check with recycling facilities in your area to see if they can take it. 

In the battle of real vs artificial Christmas trees, real trees win! But first, use what you have! By decreasing demand for new products in general, you can help protect our planet this holiday season. Tip: this applies to decorating your tree, too! Check out my plastic-free holiday decor guide here.

I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! As always, you can support me and the site by buying me a cup of tea or sharing the site with a friend. Your support means the world to me!

Mia Hadrill
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