green tips holidays

A few years ago, after many years of having a real tree for Christmas, I insisted that my husband and I make the switch to an artificial tree.  I was adamant that it was much better for the environment and much greener not to cut down a tree every year and go with artificial holiday greens.

Now after years of dragging that huge tree box out of the attic and trying to be much more aware of how our choices affect the environment, I may have to change my tune and – gulp – admit to my husband that I was wrong about our holiday greens!  :-0  Time to do some research for ways to green yet another part of our life!

Who knew there was a National Christmas Tree Association – I didn’t – but I’m glad I do now!  Their site provides a wealth of information about artificial and real trees.  Here are a few of the facts I found particularly interesting about both that may help you make your choice about holiday greens:

Artificial Trees

  • According to the U.S. Commerce Department, most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China.
  • Most artificial Christmas trees are made of metals and plastics which are not recyclable.  The plastic material, typically PVC, can be a potential source of hazardous lead.
  • The average family uses a fake tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill indefinitely.
  • Artificial trees are shipped long distances to reach stores near you which uses more fuel (natural resources).
  • Artificial trees require more packaging which may lead to more landfill trash if not properly sorted or if components aren’t recyclable.
  • Artificial trees may be less expensive compared to the annual expense of a real Christmas tree.
  • Artificial trees don’t need watering or leave pine needles all over the floor.

Real Trees

  • Real Christmas trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen.
  • Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts.
  • Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes.
  • Christmas tree farmers plant new seedlings every spring to replace those harvested.  These trees would not exist if not planted by Christmas tree farmers.
  • Buying from a farm helps support local businesses and uses less fuel to deliver to customers.
  • No packaging required = less trash
  • Real trees are farmed as agricultural products which may mean repeated applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers (unless raised organically, using integrated pest management techniques rather than chemicals).
  • If you live where coniferous trees don’t grow your tree may travel hundreds of miles (aka lots of fuel) to reach the lot.  However, a tree trucked from a couple states away is still traveling thousands of miles less than one from overseas.

Trashing Trees

No matter which route you decide to go it’s important to know how to dispose of your tree once the holidays are over.

Artificial trees unfortunately can’t be recycled due to the metal and plastic they are made of but there are ways to keep them out of the landfill.  Consider donating your artificial tree to a charity, neighbor or other organization that can re-use it.  Another option is to post it on Craigslist or Freecycle.  Do your best to keep it out of the landfill.  If it ends up there it will stay there for a VERY long time!

Real trees are much easier to get rid of when the holidays are over.  Many communities offer drop off locations or even curbside pick-up.  Trees can then be reused for a variety of things including mulch used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways.


Hopefully this quick overview of the “greenness” of both artificial and real trees gives you some things to consider when you are deciding where to go for your next Christmas tree – whether it’s out to a farm or up to the attic!  Happy holidays!