Christmas Guide: Real or Fake Tree?

Christmas is right around the corner! 

It’s time for hot chocolate and holiday movies and spending time with family and friends. A decades-old holiday tradition is decorating your home with lights, wreaths, and trees! Setting up a Christmas tree and coloring it with the sea of ornaments you have collected over the years is the best way to transition into the season. 

A big question, though, is what kind of tree to get? Is it more sustainable to use a real tree or a fake tree? Science points in the direction of real trees; this is because real trees...


Promote green spaces.

Every spring, tree farmers across the country prepare for the Christmas season by planting 300-500 million trees nationally. Out of this giant number, only 30 million are purchased. For each tree purchased, farmers plant one to three new seedlings. That leaves hundreds of millions nationwide, creating thousands of forests across the country that would otherwise not be there.

Christmas trees are typically grown in soil that does not grow other crops, equating to more green space as opposed to the land being used for something else; for example, a factory. In these green spaces, the trees take in carbon dioxide and any other gas in the air and pump out pure oxygen (reducing CO2 in our atmosphere). They also stabilize the soil by replenishing it with nutrients, preserve water supplies, and provide habitats for wildlife!

Grow and are sold locally.

In the US alone, 10 million fake trees are purchased per year. Out of those 10 million, 85-90% come from China, meaning increased carbon emissions and resource use for transport. The more eco-friendly alternative is driving 10 minutes to your local tree farm, supporting local businesses and reducing your carbon footprint. 

According to the predictions of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (published research conducted by 15+ nature institutions), natural solutions to climate change, such as an increase in Christmas tree farms, can account for up to 37% of the reduction of carbon emissions we need by 2030 to make sure global warming does not surpass two degrees celsius. Support your tree farmers!

Recycle and biodegrade.

Real trees come from the earth and can just as easily decompose and biodegrade back into it. The same cannot be said for fake trees. The average family uses a fake tree for six to nine years before it is sent to a landfill where it will be indefinitely. Fake trees are petroleum based and made from metals and plastics. (Fun – or not so fun – fact: fake trees originated from a toilet brush company, so fake trees are essentially a giant, green toilet brush!)

After your tree is done sparkling in your living room and looking pretty, check to see if your local recycling center takes old Christmas trees. Retired Christmas trees can be repurposed for wood chips, mulch, firewood, etc.

Originate naturally, making them safer.

The plastic used in most fake trees, called polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is known to be a potential source of hazardous lead. The plastic is boycotted by many environmental groups.

Real trees are straight from the ground! They contain zero harmful chemicals or plastics, fill the air with the fresh smell of pine, and facilitate oxygen flow throughout your home. 

Here are some other ways you can reduce your carbon footprint:

If a fake tree is best for your current circumstances, try to rent a fake tree or buy a second hand one! That way, you are not contributing to the carbon emissions from manufacturing fake trees and are giving an old tree new life.

Another fun holiday activity is buying a potted Christmas tree for your backyard! You will have the opportunity to watch your baby tree grow into full-sized and you can either decorate the tree outside or cut it down to bring inside. If you choose to leave it outside, you can keep it there all year round -- firs can live up to 60 years!

Go natural this Christmas!

Better for the environment and better for you: buy from your local tree farm this Christmas season.

Thank you for taking steps towards a greener future!



“Environmental Benefits: National Christmas Tree Association.” National Christmas Tree Association | Every Christmas Needs a Real Tree, 29 July 2019,

“Fake Trees: National Christmas Tree Association.” National Christmas Tree Association | Every Christmas Needs a Real Tree, 29 July 2019,

“Real vs. Fake-Which Christmas Tree Is Better for the Environment?” The Nature Conservancy, 2 Dec. 2019,

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