Real Christmas Trees vs. Fake Christmas Trees: Which are Greener?

Real Christmas trees are better for the environment than fake Christmas trees: They’re renewable and recyclable, unlike that petroleum-derived faux model. But the aroma of pine will cost you. Depending on where you live and the size and species of tree you buy, a real Christmas tree runs $20 to $150 annually.

You can pick up a basic fake Christmas tree for as little as $23 from Lowe’s. Or, go deluxe—with already-lit, snow-covered branches—for as much as $298. Either way, keep a faux tree in the family for at least a decade to goose up your holiday gift fund and mitigate the pileup in your local landfill.

If you insist on replacing your fake tree every year to change things up, donate your old one to a charity, a resale shop, or Freecycle.

All I want for Christmas is the greenest of trees. What do I look for?
Visit a local Christmas tree farm. Christmas tree farmland often can’t be used for other crops, says Brian Clark Howard, an environmental reporter at The Daily Green in New York City. When the tree farmers plant new trees, the growing young trees combat climate change by absorbing carbon. And tree farms conserve soil—farmers only till the land once every six or eight years.

If you buy from a Christmas tree lot, your tree was likely shipped from Oregon or North Carolina, and getting it to you created pollution, Howard says.
Do business with a local Christmas tree farmer who grows organic Christmas trees without pesticides. Whether an organic tree costs more depends on where you live.

Published: December 10, 2010
By: G. M. Filisko
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