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?
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. The average tree travels 230 miles from farm to home. 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.
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 nonrecyclable and nonbiodegradable, 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
We’ll admit, it may not sound as environmentally friendly, but the American Christmas Tree Association claimed that the environmental impact is lower than that of a real tree if you use an artificial tree for over five years. Simply put, if you opt to buy an artificial tree this year, consider using it for five years (or more) to help offset the impact of buying a real tree.
In 2018, Americans bought 56.4 million Christmas trees and of those, 32.8 million were real trees, while the remaining 23.6 million trees purchased were artificial trees. 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?