The Pros and Cons of an Artificial Tree
PRO - Cost. The average cost of a real Christmas tree is $76, compared to $108 for an artificial tree, meaning reusing the artificial tree a second year will save money. This doesn’t even factor in the costs of tree stands and lights, typically included with an artificial tree but sold separately with a real tree.
PRO – Convenience. Artificial trees don’t need watering, don’t leave pine needles or sap all over the floor and transportation from tree farm to home isn’t an issue. Artificial trees come in a compact cardboard box that easily fits in most cars instead of tied to the roof. But many experts believe artificial trees actually have a greater negative environmental impact when all aspects of their life cycle are considered.
CON – Non-Biodegradable, Non-Recyclable. Today’s artificial trees are typically manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. In addition, many older varieties may contain lead.
CON - Performance. There’s also no guarantee the LED lights will last the whole time you own it, and they can’t be removed and replaced like with a real tree.
CON – Travel. Approximately 85% of artificial trees sold in the U.S. are imported from China, adding to their overall environmental footprint.
CON - Space Consideration. You will be storing an artificial tree in your home for 11 months, and it won’t fit easily back into the box once you uncoil the branches. You’ll need to find the storage space, whereas real trees require no storage needss.
The Pros and Cons of a Real Tree
Approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America each year, according to the U.S. EPA.
PRO - Recycling. 93% of those trees are recycled. Also known as “treecycling,” the act of recycling a Christmas tree is a leading reason many experts agree they are more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts. Treecycling is an easy way to return a renewable and natural source back to the environment instead of disposing it in a landfill, where decomposition rates are slowed due to lack of oxygen.
Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways. They can be used for beachfront erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization, and fish and wildlife habitat.
PRO – CO2 Sequestering. A single farmed tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime. With more than 350 million real Christmas trees growing in U.S. tree farms alone, you can imagine the yearly amount of carbon sequestering associated with the trees. Additionally, each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people.
In order to ensure a healthy supply of Christmas trees each year, growers must use sustainable farming techniques.
PRO – American Jobs. According to the NCTA, the “live” Christmas tree industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, an important economic consideration in the real versus artificial debate.
CON – Pesticides. As an agricultural products, repeated applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers may be used throughout their lifetime. The ideal tree would be raised organically, using integrated pest management techniques rather than chemicals.
CON – Travel. Even live trees have had to travel hundreds of miles to reach the lot. However, a tree trucked from a couple states away is still traveling thousands of miles less than one from China.
All of the experts agree that a real tree is better for the environment.
Go one step further than the real versus artificial debate and consider a living, potted tree this Christmas. Though not feasible for everybody due to climate and land availability, living trees are brought into the home for about 10 days, then replanted after Christmas. If you don’t have the land for replanting, your local parks department will likely accept your tree for planting after the holidays.
Additional resources: https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/real-christmas-trees-are-better-for-the-environment-experts-say/70003343