Real Trees vs. Fake Trees -the Environmental Pros and Cons

Making An Eco-Friendly Choice: The Environmental Debate Settled
Each holiday season, there are news articles, web sites and commentators who debate whether it is better for the environment to use an artificial Christmas tree or a natural Christmas tree.
This can often be confusing to consumers who want to make an eco-friendly choice, but can’t find a simple, straight-forward “apples to apples” comparison.
The table below illustrates that Real Christmas Trees are the best environmental choice.

Real Trees

Artificial Trees



• United States & Canada

• 85% from China



• farming

• factory

• planting takes place Jan-May

• raw materials sent to factory & assembled into final product

• estimated 40-45 million trees planted in 2007 in North America

• product is shipped to U.S. then distributed to stores

• estimated 446 million trees growing on farms in U.S.

• number of factories unknown

• tree farms support complex eco-systems

• factories only consume natural resources



• plant tissue

• plastics and metals

• 100% biodegradable

• non-biodegradable



• Yes

• No



• Yes

• No (lead is used in the process of making PVC plastic)



• Yes

• No

• trees absorb carbon dioxide

• plastic is a petroleum byproduct

• when decomposing, carbon, nitrogen and other elements are released into soil




• No

• Yes

• Scientists have measured cut Christmas trees for chemical residue and not found any significant amounts

• PVC itself is a dangerous chemical

• Many different bugs, fungi and parasites can attack and kill trees, so farmers may use pesticides to keep consumers' trees healthy and alive until harvest

• Manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, the most toxic man-made chemical known

• Most pesticides are ground applied; some farmers use biological controls, rather than chemicals, or use organic methods

• Released into air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions and impairing children's development

• Herbicides are used to suppress, not kill off, weeds to prevent soil erosion


• If someone tells you “there are chemicals on cut Christmas trees” they are wrong




• Recycled

• Landfill

• Used trees can be recycled in a variety of ways

• Fake trees can’t be recycled and end up in landfills

• Decomposing trees add nutrients back into the earth

• All of the accumulated fake trees are a burden to the environment indefinitely



• Yes

• No

• New trees are planted every year

• Petroleum, used to make plastic, is a non-renewable resource, as are metals



• Yes

• No

The NCTA offers more information on this subject at:
This article used with permission from the National Christmas Tree Association.

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