Real vs. Fake, Christmas Edition


Written by Danielle Magnuson, the Utne Reader

I like to visit the Christmas tree lot when itís snowing. There will be free hot cider, a small bonfire in the center of the yard, and children running around between the blue spruces and Fraser firs. And happily, a real tree makes for a healthy holiday, according to Organic Gardening.

You might think one of those horrid artificial trees would be the more environmentally friendly route. After all, you reuse it every year instead of chopping down a living tree each December. But real pine can be mulched, composted, chipped, or fed to birds and animals. Growing up on the farm, we gave our leftover Christmas tree to the goats, who greedily stripped it of every last needle in no time. If you donít happen to have a goat yard, itís likely your city collects curbside trees for recycling after the holidays.

In contrast, an artificial tree is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can never be recycled, and eventually ends up in a landfill after youíve gotten your years of service out of it. A fake tree is used an average of 6 to 10 years before being dumped for a newer model. Speaking of, the longer you have that artificial tree in your home, the more likely it is to be toxic to you and your children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

Artificial Christmas trees made of PVC degrade under normal conditions. About 50 million U.S. households have artificial Christmas trees, of which about 20 million are at least nine years old, the point at which dangerous lead exposures can occur.

And as Organic Gardening points out, Christmas tree farmers are leaders in conservation agriculture. Their product emits healthy oxygen during its 15 or so years of growing, requires little to no supplemental irrigation, and thrives in tough terrain that is otherwise unsuited for agricultural crops. The Coalition of Environmentally Conscious Growers holds high standards for its tree farmers. (Check out these tips from Utne Readerís archive for choosing a locally grown, environmentally friendly Christmas tree.)

So if you, too, love listening to holiday tunes while scouring the tree yard for that Charlie Brown gem under lightly falling snowflakes, rest assured that itís the healthiest yuletide option for your family and the Earth.

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


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Ten Steps To Waste Less Food This Holiday Season


Photo from maaco via flickr


Lori H.
Loretta H6 years ago

As I said in an earlier post. No one has to "kill" a tree to enjoy a real one at Christmas. While most years, I do have to use an artificial one due to cost, when we can, we purchase a LIVE tree. Not a "cut" tree, but a LIVE one that has the root ball with it. It can be replanted and live out many many years of beauty for us to enjoy. If more people would be willing to go that route, the price would probably come down on LIVE trees and we would be helping the environment by replanting trees grown on a farm, in a place where many others could enjoy it. Don't buy a "cut" tree, look for a LIVE one with it's root ball intact. They will give you instructions on how to care for it and how to plant and nurture it.

Krista D.
Krista D.6 years ago

The tree put up in my home every year is a 6ft faux tree that has been in my family for 30 years and I couldn't possibly see how killing 30 live trees could possibly make up for the fantastic traditions and stories that surround this faux tree. Nor can I see how buying a new faux tree could be a smart decision, most of them are made cheaply outside the U.S. by factories that don't disclose their working conditions, and I personally don't trust them to disclose exactly what materials and chemicals are used to make the faux trees, they could be more hazardous to the health of those in my home than the one I currently have.

Jo Little
jo L6 years ago

As a kid, we spent Christmas at my grandparents' and went out in the woods and selected a tree. However, with 100 acres of Georgia pine, 1 tree didn't seem such a sacrifice since 2 new seedlings would replace it some Spring. But as an adult, I refuse to kill something so beautiful and majestic which provides food and shelter to others, cleans our air and supports the earth & soil against errosion ..... just to stick it in a corner for a few days and watch it wither & die. And because I have pets, the falling needles are dangerous, so we're content with our artificial tree. For those that live in an appropriate climate, I think a LIVE tree that's planted after the holidays is the perfect solution. Unfortunately, "Christmas tree" pines/furs don't survive long in Miami. I've tried.

Beth Cook
Beth Cook6 years ago

My family has never had a real tree. My parents say that they had real ones growing up but they were such a hassle. But, its such a waste of a real tree that could be outside, living and producing oxygen and home for wildlife. Artificial, though it doesn't smell right to some people is so much easier to set up and take care of and in the long run, I can see is much more economical as well. We had one artificial tree that cost about $150 and it was about 5 1/2 feet tall and we had it for about 20 years before we decided it was time to retire it and get a new one with LED lights already strung into it. It more than payed for itself over those years. Much more economical than the $30-$100 that it costs each year for a real one that you have to throw out each year.

David Anderson
David Anderson6 years ago

I am far more disturbed by the fake Christmas than the question of real vs. fake trees.

Lynn Bishop
Lynn Bishop6 years ago

We always had a live tree until we discovered that one of my daughters is allergic to most of the trees used at Christmas. Now, we have to use an artificial one. i sure do miss that wonderful smell of a live tree.

Hannah S.
Hannah Short6 years ago

i use a fake tree, i dont have the heart to kill and waste a live one

Sara W.
Sara Williams6 years ago

I buy a tree that's in a pot...and after Christmas I plant it at my parents' house. It makes me feel so much better to not kill a tree when celebrating being with those I love. And my mom is thrilled to get a free tree.

Dolores M.
Dolores M6 years ago

Rent a real Christmas's become more & popular. The tree is brought to the customer and picked up after the holiday is over. The following Christmas it's rented out again, until it gets too big and then it's planted. What a novel idea!

Richard Zane Smith

I like trees best where they are supposed to be....out under the sky.

when old trees begin to die some hollow ones are left as homes for animals
and others are used for firewood and even carving burl bowls....