A Conscious Crossroads: To Get a Real or Artificial Christmas Tree?

Hey friends! December has been crazy busy so far for me with lots going on at work, so I’ve been a little silent on the blog front since Thanksgiving. But I’m so ready to get back into blogging mode and talk all things holiday! I finally had a chance to pick out my Christmas tree this weekend, and it got me thinking about the great Christmas debate for conscious consumers: is a real or artificial tree the most eco-friendly option? The New York Times wrote a great article on it this year, which you can read here.

For the past few years I’ve been getting a real tree. I started getting a real tree mostly because growing up my parents had artificial trees and I wanted to have a live one for once. Sometimes they bother my allergies while I get adjusted to having a tree inside, but there’s something so magical about having a living tree in the house for the holidays. Though I do always have to set a reminder on my phone to water it daily…But for conscious consumers everywhere, it can be very confusing which option is the “best” to choose. Last year, more than 27 million Christmas trees were purchased during the holiday season (CBS, 2018). That’s a lot of trees! So if you’re torn on whether to get a real or artificial tree, I put together a list of pros and cons list to help you decide. Here we go!

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Pros for getting a real tree

~ Real trees are biodegradable. This one might be obvious, but it’s worth stating that trees are organic matter. When they die after the holidays, your tree will not take 10,000 years to degrade in the landfill like plastic does.

~ Real trees consume carbon dioxide while they’re alive and growing. Having land designated for growing trees means those trees are taking in excess CO2!

~ Your tree was likely grown in the USA, meaning lower emissions from transportation when compared to overseas travel.

Cons for getting a real tree

~ It’s perceived as a “single-use” product, though I think this is a misconception. It’s close-minded to think that the tree is only getting one use: decor purposes. Throughout it’s life, it nourished the soil it grew in, provided a home for wild animals, and jobs for Christmas tree farmers. That sounds like more than one use to me!

~ Trees are cut down. Well, yes. I can’t refute this one. Though usually for every tree cut down, another one is planted.

~ It might be transported a long distance (think: CO2 emissions from trucks). Oregon and North Carolina are huge hubs for Christmas tree farms, so if you don’t live near either of those states, your tree may have to be trucked a long distance. When picking out a live real, ask them where it was shipped in from and what details they have on the farm’s practices.

I always buy my tree at the same place each year, and I ask them where the trees come from. I don’t want a tree that was driven in from halfway across the country. My tree typically comes a farm in North Carolina, so I know that transportation-wise, it’s impact was not huge.

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Pros for getting an artificial tree

~ It’s a “reusable” product. The high-quality artificial trees can last a LONG time now. Like 30 years or more!

~ No live trees are “harmed” in the process. Getting an artificial tree means not cutting down a living one.

Cons for getting an artificial tree

~ It’s manufactured with plastic, which takes tens of thousands of years to biodegrade. Make sure you can commit to reusing the tree for many years to come if you go this route.

~ Likely manufactured overseas which means it has to be shipped across the world to you (think: CO2 emissions). According to The New York Times, most artificial Christmas tree are manufactured from PVC and steel in China and then shipped to the U.S. (NYT, 2018).

In conclusion…

Your decision on whether to get a live or artificial tree is only one in thousands of decisions you make each year that contributes to your overall carbon footprint. It’s not going to make or break whether you’re a conscious consumer. Rather, it’s important to consider all of the other decisions you’ll make this holiday season: what kind of gifts are you buying? How many gifts are you buying? To sum it up with a quote from The New York Times article:

If a consumer

Do you usually buy a real or artificial Christmas tree? Do you have any tips for staying sustainable this time of year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

XO Kristen

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