Are Real or Artificial Christmas Trees Greener?

Benefits of  Artificial Trees 

They are re-used every year.

  • They don’t produce as much waste as real trees.
  • More economical because you do not need to buy a new tree every year.


  • Artificial trees do not shed their needles.
  • There is no sap to make them sticky.
  • No watering needed.


  • This tree does not dry out and become a fire hazard.
  • It is made from fire-resistant poly vinyl.

Size options and equal all around

  • These are all the same all the way around, no imperfections.
  • Multiple sizes and styles.

Negatives of Artificial Trees

  • Very difficult to recycle. It leaches plasticizers, stabilizers into landfills.
  • Lack of scent
  • Many known carcinogens including dioxin, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, and heavy metals are produced when PVC is made. This pollutes neighborhoods near factory sites.
  • The effects of these toxins can hinder; male reproduction, development,pregnancy loss, female infertility, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
  • 85% of fake trees sold in North America Originate from China.
  • Contain Lead and other additives linked to kidney, neurological and reproductive system damage in lab animals.
  • Many fake trees have a warning label telling you to avoid inhaling or eating dust particles.
  • Petroleum is used to make them (not sustainable)

Benefits of Real Trees 

  • They are absorbing Carbon Dioxide and emitting fresh oxygen.
  • For every tree that is cut down they plant 1-3 seeds.
  • They are farmed in US & Canada so less distance to travel.
  • 100% biodegradable
  • No toxic chemicals (if organically grown).
  • Able to be recycled, it is composted.

Negatives of Real Trees

  • Pesticides and fertilizers, if used contribute to pollution of watershed.
  • Lots of holiday trees are discarded.
  • It takes 7 years to grow a average 7-foot tree, so there are thousands of acres used in the production of them.
  • Fire Hazard.

The More Environmental Option 

If you already have an artificial tree, don’t throw it away.

Real Christmas Trees have the least amount of environmental harm.

The best option is to buy a live tree. These are potted trees that will continue to live after the Christmas season. They can be planted in your yard, also there are Trees for Rent and The Living Christmas Company. These companies provides trees and then takes them back and allows them to grow taller for the next year. A live tree is the best option for a truly environmental  Merry Christmas.

What kind of tree are you using for the holidays? In your opinion what do you think is the most environmental? Will the industry be able to move towards renting real trees?

“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging; Not only green when summer’s here, but also when ’tis cold and drear…”

~Unknown Author


About lewis162

Check out my Environmental blog My Blog from when I was abroad (Switzerland)

Posted on November 18, 2011, in Biodegradable, environment, Holiday/Christmas, Trash, Uncategorized, Water, Woldwide and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Wow, I never have heard of renting trees, I will have to see if I can find somewhere in my area thanks!

  2. Personally my family uses a real Christmas tree and always have. As you stated, the holidays have become a major tradition in our country and each family has their own traditions they uphold.
    I think that a tea tree really adds to the whole holiday atmosphere, decorating it and the scent you get from a real tree is an undeniable part of the holidays.
    Even though some may see it as “wasteful” to buy a real tree every year I think that the pros out way the cons. Not only are the trees completely biodegradable but by purchasing a tree you are also supporting the Christmas tree economy and promote the planting of more trees.
    I can’t see how tree rentals would really be practical. My question is would there be a deadline for the time they would take your tree back?
    Most people like to keep their tree until the very last day when they are finally dried up.
    I feel like renting a tree looks good on paper, but it’s not really realistic. People want to be in control of their traditions and for many, have a real christmas tree is one of them.

    • Real Christmas trees are definitely better environmentally when compared with artificial trees.
      If you rent a tree the tree is alive the whole time, it needs water and nutrients and is potted. The majority of websites I looked at, (as I do not have personal experience, I’m trying to find somewhere near where I live to try this year) give you a number of times to pick when to have the tree delivered, the dates are usually the second or third week of December. They then come back on a scheduled pick up time that is usually the first two weeks of January. The companies usually deliver and pick up trees in the same area on the same day (so they do not use as much gas this way), so it depends what is available in your area. So yes there is a deadline.
      I have found if difficult to find a tree to rent, just because it is not a very common thing. Renting a tree means you have the most living tree possible and real a tree could be. The scent is often stronger, and less needles will drop.
      I definitely know renting isn’t for everyone but I think it is an option that I would like to try before evaluating how I fully feel about it, if I find a place near where I live I will let you know my experience.

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