Real trees look nicer, smell better, and are more appealing overall, but many people have shifted to fake trees over the years due to environmental concerns.
Are plastic trees actually more environmentally friendly than real trees? Here are ten reasons why the answer to this question is “no”:
1. Fake trees are made from PVC plastic and producing this plastic releases a variety of nasty toxic chemicals.
2. Research has shown that additional chemicals used in the production of fake trees can damage the brains, reproductive systems, and other organs of lab animals.
3. Fake trees often contain lead and ingestion of lead causes brain damage. Some fake trees may shed lead dust, which can end up on the hands of children and the paws of pets and be subsequently ingested when children touch their mouths or pets groom themselves.
4. The majority of fake trees are produced in overseas sweatshops where workers toil in horrendous conditions, after which the trees are shipped to other countries, a process that contributes to carbon emissions and, by extension, global warming.
5. Plastic trees can’t be recycled; they just end up in landfills.
6. A life-cycle analysis that compared fake and real Christmas trees found that a fake tree is less eco-friendly than a real tree unless it’s used for at least 20 years, but most people use their fake trees for no more than 6 to 10 years.
7. The toxins associated with fake trees grow stronger over time, so it would not be safe to keep a plastic tree for long enough to achieve any environmental benefits over the use of a real tree.
8. Real Christmas trees aren’t typically obtained from forests these days, so buying them doesn’t contribute to deforestation and ecosystem destruction. Instead, they’re grown on local farms, many of which don’t even use pesticides, and purchasing them helps local farmers.
9. Real trees can be turned into compost, mulch, or goat food after the holiday is over.
10. With real trees, there is also the option to purchase a live one and keep it indoors over the winter if you can’t stand the thought of having a live tree chopped down. If you choose to go with a potted tree, buy one that was grown in a pot rather than a tree that has been ripped out of the ground and replanted in a pot (these trees tend to do poorly). Also, don’t put the tree outside until it warms up because the indoor warmth brings the tree out of its dormant winter state so that it starts growing again. Putting it out in the cold once it has woken up can kill it. In addition, it’s a good idea to use LED lights (which don’t generate as much heat) or no lights at all to avoid drying the tree out.
To learn about the history of various Christmas traditions such as giving gifts, decorating trees, kissing under the mistletoe, and more, see the main Christmas page and The History of Santa Claus and His Reindeer. For a less commercialized and greener holiday celebration, see Environmentally Friendly Gift Ideas and Tips for an Eco-Friendly Christmas.
- Magnuson, D, “Real vs. Fake, Christmas Edition,” UTNE Reader, 29 November 2011.
- Main, E., “This or That: Christmas Trees—Real or Fake?” Rodale, n.d.
- “Real vs Fake Christmas Trees: Which Type of Christmas Tree is Better for Your Health and the Environment?” EarthTalk, About.com, n.d.
- Wallop, H., “Christmas Trees in Pots ‘Bad Value’ Says Which?” The Telegraph, 2 December 2009.