General, People vs. Nature, Science for Everyone, Sustainability

Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree: What’s Better for the Environment?


I’ve always been a real Christmas tree person. I love the process of picking out the perfect tree and then getting it home to fill the house with its fresh smell. However, as I try to make my life more environmentally friendly, I wondered whether a real Christmas tree was a good idea. Even though artificial trees are made of plastic, they do last longer. Is that better?

I went on a deep dive into the research before selecting my tree this year. And it’s not easy. There are so many factors to consider including production, transport, and post-holiday disposal.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

For example, did you know that the climate cost (in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents) to produce an artificial tree is over 11 times higher than that of a real tree? How? Well, real trees are plants, and they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while they grow (aka are produced). On the other hand, artificial trees are made of plastic – which is made of petroleum.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Here’s the problem though. We can’t just factor production into the equation. We also must think about how the tree gets from the factory or the farm to our door AND what we are going to do with it once we’re done with it.

The debate over real vs artificial tree led to some interesting thoughts. For example, is there a way to reuse an artificial tree once it isn’t used for the holidays anymore? I couldn’t think of any or find anything on Pinterest that fit my design style. 

I also thought about real trees. Could I find a tree that still has roots, so that it could be replanted once the holiday was over (once I have a house and not an apartment)? Is that even possible? And would I eventually end up with a forest of old Christmas trees in my backyard if I do that?

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

After a great deal of thought, my husband and I realized that a real tree works best for us and is our most environmentally friendly option. And I breathed a little sigh of relief as well. I love my real Christmas trees.

What about for you though? What is most environmentally friendly for you? I put together a video on my YouTube channel that outlines the various considerations and climate costs of each type of tree. Check it out below and decide for yourself.

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