Which Christmas Tree is the Better Choice?

Using real or artificial trees is the question this season.

A decorated Christmas tree.

 (New Africa / Shutterstock.com)

While early birds can’t wait to decorate their homes for Christmas and other people enjoy decking the halls at the last minute, all have to make the same decision about whether to use a real or artificial tree. Although some people love the fresh pine scent of a natural Christmas tree, others enjoy the convenience of an artificial one. In 2021, after COP26, the environmental impact of both has to be considered too.

Natural Versus Artificial
Choosing a real tree over a manufactured metal and plastic one is a clear winner for the Nature Conservancy. The organization stressed that even though cutting down a live tree seems counterintuitive, you are actually supporting forests by choosing to go natural.

Only 10 percent of the estimated 350-500 million natural trees on Christmas tree farms are harvested each year. That leaves most standing and besides sequestering carbon, trees improve soil, and provide homes for animals.

Since more than half of US forests are privately owned, according to the organization, buying live Christmas trees and other sustainably farmed wood products keeps the tree farms in business so they can continue to keep land forested and undeveloped.

Plus, natural Christmas trees can be recycled into mulch according to Popular Science, and that will positively impact the environment. Some communities will pick up Christmas trees for recycling. But even if they do end up in landfills, trees will naturally decompose in six months.

What’s the Scoop About Artificial Trees?
Artificial trees are preferred by many people because they are reusable. But artificial trees are usually manufactured in China using unsustainable materials like plastics and then have to be transported long distances. This is very bad for the environment. But the more times an artificial tree is used, the more environmentally friendly it becomes  

Disposing of artificial trees is a big problem. When the tree is no longer serviceable, it ends up in landfills. “Artificial trees have major environmental impacts,” Lynn Wunderlich, a farm advisor from the University of California Cooperative Extension in California’s central Sierras told Popular Science.

Sustainable DIY Trees
For people who do not want to cut down a living tree, or use a commercially manufactured one, there are other options. You can make your own eco-friendly Christmas tree according to Greenpeace. You can DIY a cardboard one from makedo, build one out of LEGO bricks, or shape one out of branches you find outside.

Another sustainable option is to decorate a potted plant that you can plant outside in the Spring. Some nurseries will even deliver one to you and then take it back after the holiday.  

No matter what option you choose, making Christmas more sustainable is the way to go. So green your tree, your decorations, and your gift wrap for a planet-friendly holiday.

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