Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Buying a tree for Christmas is a time honored tradition, but the creation of plastic plants have given consumers options on what type of tree to buy: real or fake? Just last year, nearly 96 million households in the United States decorated their house with a Christmas tree, with 81% using an artificial tree and 19% using a natural tree. However, real trees are far better compared to fake trees in terms of their impact on the environment, how they support American tree farmers, and the tradition they uphold.
Protecting The Environment
Many assume plastic trees are more eco-friendly because they are reusable, so there is no need to buy more as time passes. However, even though real trees are only good for one year, they are biodegradable, unlike most fake trees, and the materials of a natural tree can be used in a variety of ways. Resourceful thinkers have converted their Christmas trees into firewood, mulch, and some have even replanted them.
Natural trees can be reinvented and returned to nature, while artificial trees only have one purpose. Households use fake trees for an average of six to nine years, and when they get broken or overused, they end up as an additional piece of plastic inside a landfill.
Real trees also produce less carbon emissions than artificial trees. Almost 90% of all plastic trees are imported from China, and the emissions generated from production and transportation are far greater than that of real trees. A two meter natural tree emits an estimated 3.5 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) if it is disposed of naturally, and an estimated 16kg of CO2 if it is discarded in a landfill. Meanwhile, the process of building a two meter fake tree produces an alarming 40kg of CO2.
Supporting Trees Farmers
Countless tree farmers depend on the profits they make selling Christmas trees to feed their families, and as Americans begin to heavily rely on artificial trees, many are dropping out of the business completely. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a total of 2.20 million farms in 2002. By 2019, that number decreased to 2.02 million.
Due to the low profit margin associated with the industry, tree farmers require high demand for their profit to make a living selling Christmas trees. Christmas tree farmers put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, yet only receive a 25-30% profit margin, equivalent to $8-10 a tree. One tree alone takes around 8-10 years to mature, meaning farmers basically make a dollar a year per tree. To protect this diminishing industry and the hardworking farmers who make a living off of this, we must buy natural trees and drive up the demand for this product.
Natural Trees Are Not a Major Fire Hazard
Finally, Christmas celebrators have begun to believe that having a real Christmas in their homes is a massive fire hazard. But this is fabricated nonsense. Out of all the natural Christmas trees used in households each year, only 0.00093% actually catch on fire. Preventing a fire from starting is quite simple—one must keep candles and flammable items away from the tree, and water it every day. Using low heated lights as decorations will also limit fires.
A Long Lasting Tradition
Nothing beats the natural scent of a Christmas tree when opening presents and spending time with one’s family. Artificial tree scents can be bought and sprayed on a fake tree, but that manufactured smell will never compare to that of a real tree. Finally, the benefits of buying natural trees exceed the benefits of buying fake trees with regards to environmental and economic impacts.