The Christmas tree – the most iconic symbol for one of the biggest holidays of the year (the most wonderful time of the year). Adorned with ornaments and draped with lights, it can ignite memories meandering through a row of freshly cut pines at the local Christmas tree stand.

But today, concerns around the climate crisis have had many Yuletide shoppers questioning their Christmas trees. Which is the eco-friendlier choice, buying a real tree or an artificial one?

The Real

These six to eight-foot firs and pines provide many benefits to the environment. They help the planet breathe by absorbing greenhouse gasses, turning it into clean oxygen, while providing shelter for small critters. The majority of Christmas trees are usually grown on farms, rather than being cut down in the wilderness, and Christmas tree farmers generally plant new ones each year to replace the ones that have been cut down. When the holiday season comes to an end, old Tannenbaum can be composted and reused for mulch, not filling landfills with plastics that make up an artificial tree.

The real environmental impact when purchasing real Christmas trees comes from the carbon emissions released to the atmosphere from shipping and transportation. Other factors that contribute to the negative impact on the environment from a real tree are fertilizers and pesticides used, site maintenance that involves equipment powered by fuel, and of course, water used for irrigation.

The Fake

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 85% of artificial trees are imported from China and primarily made from metal and polyvinyl chloride. Producing these materials causes greenhouse gases and other pollution to be released into our atmosphere. Artificial trees are non recyclable and non biodegradable, meaning they will sit in a landfill for years after disposal. And like real trees, transit can also have a negative impact on the environment. In fact, 80% of artificial trees come from China and travel an average of 8,400 miles

In a new guide from the American Christmas Tree Association, artificial Christmas trees are used for an average of 10 years, but most are guaranteed for up to 20 years. So while artificial trees may be more expensive up-front, they can save you money year after year and help offset the overall environmental impact.

The Greenest

Every year, 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. while others opt for artificial. The verdict? Both real and artificial trees have positive and negative impacts on the environment, but experts agree, real Christmas trees are better! Regardless of whether your tree is real or fake you can lessen the impact by buying local if you’re opting for a real tree. For our community solar customers who are currently subscribed to Belchertown Renewables in Belchertown, MA, your solar farm actually sits on an active Christmas tree farm!

For those of you dreading the shedding of pine needles, buy domestically and keep the artificial pine for as long as possible. Take steps further by lessening your environmental impact by following our holiday energy saving tips!

So, real or fake – which one will you choose this year?