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Fake vs Real: Which Christmas Trees are Greenest?

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Artificial Trees
So is there any green logic behind using an artificial tree? They save a real tree and they can be reused, it’s true. However…well, where should we start? In the end, artificial trees don’t come out even in the carbon balance. Petroleum is used to make the plastics in the trees and lots of carbon dioxide-creating energy is required to make and transport them–and they are difficult to recycle. In addition, three out of four fake trees are made in China under less than favorable labor conditions. Fake trees made in China are required by California Proposition 65 to carry a scary warning label for lead content. The potential for lead poisoning is serious and frightening.

If the threat of lead isn’t bad enough, there is the PVC issue. Most artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride)—often referred to as vinyl, as well as “the poison plastic.” According to the Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products, PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible lifelong health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. That is so not festive.

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Read more: Christmas, Green, Green Home Decor, Holidays, Home, Life, , , , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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2:21PM PDT on Apr 20, 2015

Thank you Melissa.

10:08PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thank you for info.

10:07PM PDT on Mar 28, 2013

Thank you for info.

7:02PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

Where I come from in Louisiana, all the trees become sandbar reinforcements after christmas, which helps slow coastal erosion. So I don't mind my parents buying a new one every year. Plus, the smell adds to their worth! But for myself, when I grow up, I think I'd like to have a living tree or cactus. That would be superb! And I could use some pine and cinnamon oils for cleaning during december to sort-of mimic the smell in my home. ^_^

10:27AM PST on Dec 10, 2010

Quite ironic is the fact that the "Christmas" tree is supposed to be an icon of immortality and life in the harsh winter nights, but millions of trees en up dead after a sad decay under flashy lights and plastic ornaments...

Imagine what would happen if instead of chopping down a tree for these annual rituals we would plant one every year.

Millions of new trees planted every year would really make a merry little Christmas for me.


8:52PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

The living tree is the greenest because it can be used year after year if taken care of. And each year it will be better than the year past. When it gets too tall, then plant it outside and decorate it there.

8:33PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

I would love to have a real tree for a Christmas Tree.:) I am planning to have one this Christmas with all the natural trimmings and natural decors to adorn the Tree:) Yehey!!!!

12:43PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

Well no tree here, I tree is the beatifulest outside in the woods. And plastic I found not needed. But then again ,, I have cats :)

11:20AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

not to mention that the farm land if not used to grow trees could be developed and exploited for something else...

11:17AM PST on Dec 8, 2010

Well, I think of it this way. Fake trees are made in China. Real trees are farmed in the US and Canada, giving jobs to more local folks - not just the farmers, but also the truck drivers and many retail distributors including non-profits that benefit by selling them. A good way to spread a dollar these days.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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