Real or Artificial Christmas TreeEvery year, eco-minded individuals struggle with the decision of whether to erect a real or artificial tree in their homes. If you’re looking for a definitive answer that will assuage worries once and for all, you’re going to be disappointed: Both options have pros and cons when it comes to reducing your environmental impact. When all is said and done, it’s up to you to evaluate the choices for purchasing and disposal that are available in your community, and make the decision that you can live with each year. If you don’t know where to start, here are some things to think about:

Reasons to buy real trees

  1. Spent six to 12 years capturing carbon dioxide
  2. Smell wonderful
  3. Usually come from Christmas tree farms that are planted and replanted in a cyclical fashion, not from a forest
  4. Will biodegrade if they end up in the landfill
  5. Can easily be recycled into mulch, compost or wood chips if a tree recycling program exists into your community, or you can break it down yourself if you’ve got the tools.

Reasons to avoid real trees

  1. You’re taking a natural carbon-sequestration tool off the market.
  2. They shed needles all over the carpet that usually take a toll on your vacuum cleaner.
  3. Unless it’s an organic tree, it’s covered in six to 12 years worth of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
  4. It takes a lot of water to keep the tree green while it’s holding your ornaments.
  5. Depending on where you live, it’s likely that the tree made a long, carbon-filled journey before landing in the lot where you found it.

If you’re going to buy a real tree anyway…

Keep it small; try to seek a local farm with sustainable growing practices; and ideally, purchase a living tree (roots included) that can be planted again once the holiday is over.

Reasons to buy fake trees

  1. Can be reused year after year
  2. Are typically more affordable than a real tree over time (see reason #1)
  3. Require no water to stay green
  4. Have no scent — that means it won’t drive your pets crazy
  5. Doesn’t require a labor-intensive stand to set up.

Reasons to avoid fake trees

  1. Are made using lots and lots of petroleum.
  2. Carbon dioxide-creating energy is required to make and transport them.
  3. They are almost impossible to recycle.
  4. Are often made in China, meaning there is potential for lead poisoning.
  5. Most are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which can off-gas in your home and is often referred to as “the poison plastic.”

If you’re going to buy a fake tree anyway…

Try to find a brand that’s not made in China; make sure you store it properly so that you don’t have to replace it for many years; keep pets and children from touching or gnawing on the branches. Do you set up a tree for the holidays? If so, which kind do you use?