Real or Artificial? Which Christmas Tree is Better for the Environment?

Every year, we get a real tree. I had an artifical tree when I used to live in an apartment, but once I got a house, oh boy, was I beyond excited to pick out a sweet smelling winter green. Real trees can be nutty expensive, especially if you buy from greenhouses, but they look absolutely amazing and make your house smell great. Plus, they’re a tree, so there’s the added bonus that it was grown specifically for the season, adding more trees into the world. But, you’re chopping down a tree for decor; is it really eco-friendly? Or, is the artifical alternative a better fit?

Well, like everything in the eco-friendly lifestyle, it depends.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

If you make your artifical tree last decades, then that bad boy can come out the winner. If you like to buy a new one every year (or few), well….clearly that’s not environmentally friendly. Artifical trees actually have 3x the negative environmental impact as real trees do. Which totally makes sense since they are made out of plastic and are simply thrown away after a handful of uses.

That being said, if you’re constantly driving hours to pick up your tree every single year, you’re not doing the environment any favours. Same goes if your real tree isn’t grown locally and is shipped from who-knows-where (much like your artifical tree is). Like all things in a more sustainable world, research is key.

If your artifical tree is some driftwood and sticks you found at the lake and then strung together with twine like this beauty, then that artifical tree is better than any artifical tree. Unfortunately, the artifical trees we’re talking about are not made of scavenged bits and pieces.

I originally started out this sentence with ‘plastic trees’ and then deleted the words, deciding that they weren’t right and that ‘artifical trees’ needed to be in its place. Except, that’s what artifical trees are: they’re plastic trees. And, that’s where 2/3 of the carbon footprint of an artifical tree comes from: the plastic it’s made out of.

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Real Christmas trees are trees (duh), so they’re constantly giving off oxygen. You know, that thing we need to breathe and live in the world. According to this CBC article, one simple acre of Christmas trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people PER DAY. That’s pretty fucking dope. Artificial trees give zero oxygen. Just sayin’.

Not only does a real Christmas tree smell and look amazing, but if you do it right you can support a local business and provide cleaner air for the world.

Even if you do this…

While burning Christmas trees in a nice wintery bonfire is something we love to do, I’ve always wondered if burning the tree is really the best option (it’s not. recycle it into wood chips; there are most likely programs for you to dump your trees if you don’t own a wood chipper. Because who does. I mean, it’s on my list…but, you know…who does). If you still really love your bonfire traditions, think of this: a large artifical tree actually has 10x more of a carbin footprint than a real tree that is burnt or 2x more than a tree that just goes to trash. So, while your bonfire isn’t doing any favours, it’s doing better than your neighbours with their artifical tree.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

But, what about the fact that we cut them down instead of leaving Christmas trees to grow into a nice, beautiful forest?

Well, think of it like a farmer’s crop. Except, this crop gives off oxygen and helps clean the air. What is he/she going to do for money? What else would he/she plant? As well, look for farmers who plant more trees than they cut down. The same as eco-conscious loggers (there are some, surprisingly!). Logging isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and where do you think we will get all of that wood for sustainable toys and household products?), but how logging is done can be. If you are planting 2-4 trees per tree you cut down (and the forest isn’t just ruined in huge swaths like palm oil), well, you’re going to have a pretty thick forest after you’ve made money and logged the whole forest.

The best option? Using a plant you already have in your home, like an adorably decorated potted palm or a Norfolk Christmas tree that can happily grow in your home for years instead of being thrown away or packed up at the end of the season. Christmas tree all year round! Well, delightful houseplant for 11 months of the year. There are also potted trees you can buy as Christmas trees that can be planted in the spring, but do your research first to make sure they won’t die in the pots before it’s time to plant!

Not into losing your real Christmas (or artificial) tree forever? Try using a potted plant as a tree one year, and buy a real tree another year. It’ll get you to mix it up a bit and keep your Christmas fresh.

Are artificial trees better for the environment? | Luxuriously Thrifty

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