There’s definitely no debate about the fact that the vast majority of American households won’t feel as though it’s properly the holiday season unless there is a Christmas or Solstice tree in their home.  But environmentalists (including us) often struggle with the idea of being eco-conscious while also celebrating the season. What’s the debate? Is it more eco-friendly to use a real tree that’s been cut down or to purchase a fake tree? Part of the answer to that question depends on lifestyle choices, but we think that the evidence shows that a real tree is a better option for the planet. Here’s a run down of the two arguments.

The Argument for Fake Trees: Fake Trees Only Harm the Earth Twice. Real Trees Mean Cutting a Tree Each Year.

Yes, if you use a fake tree that means there was a chemical rich process to make the plastic that makes that tree. It also means that, at some point, that tree will clutter a landfill. But if you’re not the kind of person who needs to upgrade what you own every year, a fake tree can last you for decades. If it hurts your heart to cut down a tree each year, then there are some pros to plastic. It can even become an heirloom.

Of course, this entire argument would be silly if anybody out there were making an eco-friendly, biodegradable fake tree. We couldn’t find any when we did a web search, but we’d love to hear from you if you know of a place to get them.

The Argument for Real Trees: Support Farms and Natural Eco Systems

It’s natural to wince at the idea of cutting down a tree each year, but consider these facts from Crete Plant.

  • Real trees are grown on farms much like any other crop; in fact one acre of real Christmas trees can produce enough oxygen for 18 people.More Info
  • There are close to half a billion real Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree the average retail height of six feet, but the average growing time is 7 years. More Info
  • Only a portion of trees are cut every year ensuring a continual harvest and preservation of habitat.
  • Unlike artificial trees, real trees are completely biodegradable. After the holiday season people reuse their trees to make mulch, soil erosion barriers, or animal sanctuaries during the cold winter months. More Info
  • Christmas trees are planted in soil in which other plants cannot grow, thereby increasing soil stability.
  • For every real Christmas tree harvested, 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in its place.

When you read those facts, it seems obvious that buying a real tree isn’t just a “more” eco-friendly decision than using a fake tree, it’s actually a way to actively help the environment and enjoy the aroma/feeling of nature in your home. You’re also helping local farmers, which is always a good thing.

So don’t feel guilty when you get your holiday tree. Think about all of the benefits. And if the right choice for you is a plastic tree, then that’s great, too. Just be sure to make the most of it and dispose of it responsibly when it’s time.

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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: wolfsavard