A Christmas tree can be the main decorating attraction for those who celebrate. My family has fluctuated between real and fake trees, and I never thought too much about it until recently, as climate change risks and environmentalism have become a factor in all my purchases. Recently, a report came out saying an artificial or live Christmas tree was environmentally equal, but looking closely at the study, it shows an incredible amount of interpretation of data. It also excluded important factors like organic tree farms and other information that heavily favors the plastic tree industry. (I wonder who funded the study? Hmmm…) Doing some research, I found a real tree is the best choice for the Earth and your family’s health. Here is a breakdown of why.
Manufacturing/Growth: Artificial trees are PVC plastic. There are numerous studies showing dangerous toxins to the environment and human health are used during manufacturing including lead, mercury, DEHA, dioxins, and arsenic. There is no way to prevent this exposure. PVC is mostly created from coal or petroleum, and both industries are known for major pollution, greenhouse gasses, and, therefore, climate change. There is much waste in the creation of artificial trees. Real trees, on the other hand, grow on farms where they clean the air of CO2 and are part of natural ecosystems as they develop. As one is cut down, another is planted. That’s how sustainable farming works! Harvesting Christmas trees are not the same as clear-cutting a forest for the industry. In fact, most artificial tree factories first had to chop down all the natural world before building. There is a variable amount of chemicals used on Christmas tree farms depending on the grower, but not even close to what is used to create every fake one.
Travel: Both fake and real trees have a similar amount of transportation for people going out to buy the tree, since cars and trucks are required for bringing fake trees to the store or driving out to get a real one. Shipping across the world is variable depending on where you live. Almost 90% of artificial trees are made in China, so consider that. Additionally, each component of a fake tree must be shipped to the factory first. Because of that, the emissions for fake far outweigh a real one.
Use: While in your home, any kind of tree can be a fire hazard. Regardless of the “fire retardants,” the plastic tree will burn if there is a spark from internal wiring. Live trees need to be watered regularly to prevent this. Mold and dust can be on both kinds of trees. Artificial trees are PVC plastic, which leaches dangerous toxins into the air linked to cancer, reproductive issues, immune system suppression, and problems with child development. In fact, all artificial trees have to carry warning labels because of their toxicity in the home.
Disposal: Artificial trees do not decompose and cannot be recycled. At some point, a fake tree will end up in a landfill and stay for hundreds of years, oozing toxins into our land. Real trees decompose if thrown into a landfill. Even if you buy a new live tree every year for your lifetime, they will still decompose faster than one single artificial tree. But the better option is being chopped for firewood or chipping for gardens, parks, and other helpful regional uses.
Social Justice: The labor practices of the petroleum, coal, and plastics industries and overseas factories are in constant violation of labor laws. Every dollar you spend on an artificial tree goes into the pockets of those who are destroying our world for their greed. Buying a real tree supports farmers. If you live near a Christmas tree farm, you can put dollars into your local economy.
Price and Convenience: Here, artificial trees win. Plastic is cheap and easy. That’s what has gotten us into this climate change mess in the first place. Let’s start looking at the long-term costs of short-term choices.
A Third Option: I would like a nice, big, real tree, but they are too expensive for our family to buy every year, so we have another option on the “off” years. Potted trees are the most “green” option to explore. I bought a little one for a very low price, and each year it grows bigger and I can put more decorations on it. Keep our world and your home safe and buy real trees!