Real vs Artificial Christmas Trees

Decorating is one of the most fun parts of getting ready for the holidays in my opinion. The way things look different at this time if year is part of the magic of Christmas. Of course, the focal point in Christmas decorating is often the tree, and real vs artificial Christmas trees is the great debate. Here are some comparisons for real vs artificial Christmas trees from the National Christmas Tree Association with regard to their differing impacts on our environment and climate change.

Real vs Artificial Christmas Trees

Real Trees

-typically grown in your own country, maybe even your own city
-grown on farms which support our ecosystems
-made from 100% biodegradable plant tissue
-PVC and lead free
-carbon neutral because trees absorb carbon dioxide
-are a renewable resource as new trees are planted every year
-afterward can be “recycled” through decomposing which also adds nutrients back into the earth

Artificial Trees

-majority come from China
-made in factories where raw materials are used, natural resources are consumed, and requires long distance transportation
-made of non-biodegradable plastics and metals
-contain PVC and lead
-not carbon neutral particularly because plastic is a petroleum byproduct
-not a renewable resource because of the use of petroleum and metals
-afterward end up in landfills and will not decompose

Real trees are the clear winners here in terms of eco-friendliness.  There are other aspects to consider as well though, so I know real isn’t always the easiest choice for some families, lifestyles, or situations. I’ve experienced this myself.

I have struggled with the Christmas tree decision each year since moving out on my own with Brad. We’ve tried different options and some years not even had any tree at all. Honestly, I’m still looking for the Christmas tree solution that will be right for me. Here’s what we’ve tried so far.

1st Christmas – An artificial tree. This was before I got interested in the environment and ethical consumerism or knew anything about their impact.

2nd Christmas – A potted cypress tree. We had intended to keep it year round and decorate it annually for every following Christmas. Unfortunately, our ceiling forced air heat and low light from living in a basement suite killed it shortly after the holidays.

3rd Christmas – Nothing. We were traveling out of province to see family over the holidays and thus forwent any tree at all.

4th Christmas – A small potted ficus. We lightly decorated the indoor plant that we received as a gift that prior fall.

5th Christmas – Nothing. We moved into a different home on December 15th which did not leave a lot of time for decorating.

This Christmas – Undecided. We live in an apartment, so we’re not sure if we’re allowed a real tree to begin with or if it’s worth the hassle bringing it up and down from the top floor.

I’d love to hear your traditions or suggestions!

Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree or some other alternative?

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12 Comment

  1. Reply
    Gill
    December 10, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Hi Grace, I love getting a real tree each year to decorate and since moving to our own house and a lovely rural village there is a farmer at the top of the hill which we go to each year and go out into the field to pick our tree. Pros to this are, they are always lovely, they’re good value, it’s a really lovely tradition, they smell amazing and we are supporting a very local business. But my heart does always sink in January when we throw it outside, especially knowing that it has grown for 7-12 yrs before we got it, much like I always feel kind of bad about throwing out cut flowers, but then I do try to rationalise that it has brought us so much joy whilst it has been inside… would love to know what you think about this. Plan to write all about buying and decorating my tree on my blog this week, so keep an eye out for the post. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas xx

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 10, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Aw, that sounds like a really special tradition. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve always wanted to go to an actual Christmas tree farm to pick out my tree. I think it’s a great option. All the pros you mentioned are true, and when you throw it out at the end of the season it will decompose and trees are a renewable resource. I’ll be on the look out for your post.

  2. Reply
    liz n
    December 10, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Sadly, we now have an artificial tree. My allergies just couldn’t take another Christmas with a real tree in the house. I miss the aroma and the whole “event” of taking the kids and grandkids to pick out the tree…and I miss having that tree to add to my compost bin!

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 10, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Oh, interesting! I never thought about allergies being affected by a real Christmas tree before. That’s too bad. I hope your artificial tree will still provide a festive Christmas feel to your home. And they’re still fun to decorate. 🙂

  3. Reply
    Al Clunnie
    December 14, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I had never thought of it that way! This year no tree for us (we have an artificial tree that we usually use, but due to lack of space we won’t be putting it up this year).

    I’ll consider a real tree for next year…

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 14, 2015 at 12:12 pm

      These are just the environmental considerations, though I know there are other factors to consider which make a real tree not ideal for everyone. Even though I want one, I’ve yet to have one in my adult life. I’m glad to hear you’re considering a real tree for next year though. It’ll be great if you can make it work for your situation.

  4. Reply
    Michael
    December 14, 2015 at 10:28 am

    So I have to admit that the decision is a little easier for me because I live in Portland, Oregon. I can’t even walk more than 2 blocks from my home and there are freshly cut Christmas trees available on the corner. There are Christmas tree farms everywhere outside the city because this is where they grow them. However, this still does not mean that I should get a tree every year. This year, for example, my wife and I are traveling for over half of December so it doesn’t really justify the expense and effort to get a tree. We usually alternate years for getting a tree. I’ve never got an artificial tree b/c it’s so easy to get a real one here in Portland. And the city even has a tree recycling program that makes it easy to mindfully dispose of the used tree. For me, it’s always been a decision of real tree or no real tree. And that usually comes down to if we’re going to be around to enjoy it.

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 14, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      Oh, that sounds wonderful living so close to all the Christmas tree farms. And that’s so cool that the city provides a tree recycling program. You’re right that that doesn’t make getting a real tree the right choice though. I just went through the environmental factors here, there are lots of other considerations to make. Particularly, as you’ve mentioned, whether you’ll even be home to enjoy (and water) it. I hope you and your wife enjoy your travels!

  5. Reply
    Kendra
    December 14, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    wow…some interesting stuff to think about. I purchased a fake tree several years ago. Sometimes I put it up and sometimes I don’t decorate at all. Had not planned on decorating this year but…there were some really terrible fires in our area this past summer and in order to help replant the area people can donate their trees. am seriously thinking this is the way for me to go this year. LOL…my mom who lived in a very small studio apartment for over 30 years had a cute little “tree” made out of tuna cans and painted gold. A tree can really be anything that makes you happy.

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      That’s such a neat idea about replanting with Christmas trees. Aw, your mom’s tree sounds great too. I know I’ve seen all sorts of creative alternatives building them out of branches or books or felt or any number of things. So true that it can be anything that makes you happy. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Reply
    Dee
    December 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    I don’t remember the last time we ever had a real Christmas tree (maybe as a child at my Nanas for Christmas, she always had a massive cut branch that the grandkids had a section of their own to decorate). For the last 10 years I’ve loved in a small apartment so fake was the way to go. Plus real Christmas trees don’t seem to be readily available in the city in Australia! I think whatever makes you happy is the way to go!

    1. Reply
      Grace
      December 16, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Aw, that’s a neat tradition about each having a section to decorate. Yes, a real tree doesn’t fit with all people or their circumstances. There are so many more options than just artificial or real as well, and I agree – whatever makes you happy is great.

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