The debate between getting a real vs fake Christmas tree has always been around. It’s not simply about which one is better, but rather which one is more environmentally friendly. The answer lies heavily in the way people utilize and take care of these trees; however, there are a lot of important details on each side, so let’s dive in.

Real Christmas Trees

There’s nothing quite like having a live Christmas tree in your home, the excitement of picking out your tree, the smell of fresh pine, and the feel of soft needles. However, there are some downsides to having a live tree in your home as well. Here’s some of the pros and cons and what you need to know to make the most environmentally responsible option when it comes to decorating your home this season.


  1. Provides Oxygen: While they’re growing, real Chrstimas trees emit oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming.
  2. Recyclable: Real trees can be recycled. Many cities offer mulching programs where you can have your trees chipped, and then take home a bag of mulch for your garden. Also, if recycled properly, the trees go right back into the earth.
  3. Provide Homes to Wildlife: The trees in a Christmas tree farm provide shelter and homes for animals.
  4. Fresh Home Scents: The smell! There’s nothing like the smell of real balsam fir, spruce, or pine wafting through your home. It lifts your mood and gets you in the holiday spirit.
  5. Grown with a Purpose: Christmas trees are grown for the purpose of being cut down for use during the holidays and are constantly being re-planted to replace the trees that have and will be cut down. Thus, you are not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree.


There are also cons to having a real Christmas tree, such as:

  1. High Maintenance: There’s a lot of maintenance involved. For example, you have to make sure to water it daily (to keep them fresh and fire-resistant), and it sheds, so there is cleaning involved. You also have to properly cut the base of the trunk to make it fit in your tree stand. The National Christmas Tree Association carries more details on how to care for real trees.
  2. Short Life: Once you’ve cut down your Christmas tree it has a pretty short life span. If watered daily, you should be able to keep your Christmas tree for up to six weeks. Thus, you should aim to purchase your tree at the beginning of December if you want to still have it fresh on New Year’s Day.
  3. Fire Hazard: If you opt for a live Christmas tree you need to be diligent about keeping your tree watered. Trees that dry out can quickly become a fire hazard. Take care of your tree and only keep it in your home for four to six weeks and you should be just fine.
  4. May Contain Pesticides: In order to keep them nice and pretty, Christmas trees are often grown with pesticides. If you’re sensitive to these chemicals or have children or pets in your home you might look for an organic Christmas tree farm to source your tree.

Fake Christmas Trees

Fake trees have been a popular purchase for years, they’re long-lasting, require almost no maintenance, and some even come pre-lit so you can pop them up and move on. However, their impact on the environment isn’t quite as friendly as you may think. Here are some pros and cons of fake Christmas trees you should know about.


  1. Saves Money: Though fake Christmas trees are more expensive than real trees upfront, they can last for many years, so you may end up saving money in the long-run. Also, the longer you re-use them, the greener they are.
  2.  Saves Time: It saves you time! The farthest you have to travel to spread the holiday cheer is to your basement. Plus, many fake trees come with decorations already added to them.
  3. Low Maintenance: There isn’t any cleaning or maintenance involved.
  4. Safe: They are not a fire hazard.
  5. Flexible Purchasing: There’s no need to wait until the holiday months to purchase a tree; because they are artificial, you can purchase them all year round.


The cons of fake Christmas trees lie heavily in the likelihood of toxicity levels that they carry:

  1. Health Hazard: Most fake trees are metal and plastic. Eighty-five percent of fake trees in the U.S. are imported from China; these trees are typically made of PVC, which can be a source of hazardous lead. People can get in close contact with PVC just by touching the tree while decorating (it’s often mistaken as dust).
  2. Not Biodegradable or Recyclable: That same PVC plastic that can be a health hazard is also non-biodegradable. Once you’re done with your fake Christmas tree there’s really no way to recycle it because of the glue used to make it. This means your old, lonely Christmas tree will simply sit in a landfill—pretty much forever.
  3. Long-Distance Shipping: Most fake Christmas trees travel long distances before they make it to the store where you’ll buy it. The shipment process for these trees (most of them from China) significantly increases their carbon footprint.
  4. Bad For the Environment: The American Christmas Tree Association found that it takes 10 years for a fake tree to become better for the environment than a real one in terms of carbon emissions. While this might not seem like a long time, think about the last time you bought an artificial tree and how long it actually looked nice before it was outdated or starting to show signs of wear—or the pre lit lights started to flicker out. Chances are you will want to change and update your tree well before a decade goes by.

The Verdict

There’s certainly several factors involved in the fake vs real Christmas tree debate. From the discussion above, purchasing a real tree is a better overall option for an environmentally-friendly Chrstimas. Not only are they better for our Earth, they also carry fewer toxins than artificial trees, which seems to be a healthier choice in the household.

Though purchasing real trees is encouraged, if you already have a fake tree in your home, don’t toss it out just yet. You’ll be better off simply taking care of it for years to come than tossing it for a real tree now. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to know the facts behind your real vs fake Christmas tree and how to make your choice with the environment in mind.

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