Going to a local tree farm with the family, bringing the biggest, most unique tree home, and smelling the sweet pine all holiday season has been a tradition around Christmas for generations. However, with new tree buyers and a growing awareness for the environment emerging, a big debate has become more prominent: to buy a real tree or invest in an artificial one?
As much as we love planting trees, not cutting them, we are here to give our thoughts on both decisions. Like most things, both options have their benefits and drawbacks. Immediately we would think that artificial trees would be the better option because they last a long time, but that’s exactly it; they last a really long time.
Artificial trees are made out of PVC plastic and wire, and many even come with LED lights, making it difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. Once we get rid of them, they will be an environmental burden for many years because of their inability to decompose.
However, we should not completely rule them out because of this reason since according to the American Christmas Tree Association, which supports real Christmas trees, it is greener to use an artificial tree only if you are planning to use the same one for at least 10 years.
The study that was commissioned by the association compared buying real trees to artificial trees by taking electricity, transportation and water use into consideration. From a financial standpoint, investing in an artificial tree could cost you anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars, but it would still save buying a real tree every year.
A drawback of a real tree is that because they are considered an agricultural product, it is just another thing in our agricultural world that pesticides are used on. This can become an issue during their average of 8 year life-cycle, polluting watersheds during their growth and after when they are waste. Also, if a municipality is not prepared for the waste of so many trees after the holiday season, it can become a big waste problem.
Our final verdict? Either decision can be a green decision if you act properly. If you opt for a fake tree, make sure you see it as an investment and are willing to own it for many years. If tradition and nostalgia are a little too strong, make sure to buy your real tree locally to avoid transport that can add to the carbon footprint, and try to find one that has the rootball still attached. This means that you can still replant it after the season is over, but you will have to have it indoors for no longer than a week in order for it to survive outdoors through the winter. It is important to keep it wet so that the needles don’t drop!
Also, you can recycle the real tree so that landscaping companies can compost it and use it as mulch!
Whatever your decision is, whether you pick your tree up from a farm or out of a box, be smart and proactive during this jolly season!