To Tree or Not to Tree?

Posted in: Dear Mabel, ELNews | 0

Dear Mabel,

I’m struggling to decide between a real and an artificial Christmas tree. Can you tell me which choice is better for the environment?


A. Artificial trees will save you money in the long run, they do have some nasty environmental and health impacts. Artificial trees are typically made with poly vinyl chloride (PVC), a harsh plastic that will never biodegrade. These harsh plastics can sometimes have lead and chemical additives, making them potentially toxic to those near them. In addition, a large portion are imported from China, using massive amounts of energy just for shipping and transportation. In 2015, $65.2 million worth of artificial trees were imported into Canada. $64.4 million of that was from China. Artificial trees will save you money in the long run if you treat them with care, however to environmentally justify a fake tree, you would have to use it for approximately 10-20 years, keeping in mind that the tree itself would never decompose after you dispose of it.

Real trees, on the other hand, do have some great benefits, environmentally and economically. The Canadian Christmas Tree Association is a group of Canadian tree farmers dedicated to growing and supplying the world with holiday trees. Thus, real trees then help support Canadian workers and farmers across the nation. If you’re worried about habitat loss or clear cutting of trees, don’t be. Trees nowadays are specifically grown for the holidays; thus, life is not intentionally lost. While these trees will eventually be cut down, they take years to get to their optimal size, creating homes for wildlife for many years. Additionally, you can also buy a potted tree. A potted tree is a great alternative to a cut tree since you can use it for a few years and then plant it in your yard when it gets too big. Potted trees remove the unnecessary mass cutting, transportation and energy costs associated with pre-cut trees, but don’t take away from a trees natural beauty! While it can be quite expensive to buy a tree every year, they can also be hard to maintain and clean up after. When it comes to the end of the season, however, almost every municipality has some sort of tree recycling program, whether its donating your tree to be converted into mulch, or composting it so create natural fertilizers.

It’s ultimately your choice on the type of tree you’d prefer in your home. Overall, real trees will have a greater, more positive impact than artificial trees.

Ask Mabel your question, or see her previous answers:

Leave a Reply