Why the claim that fake Christmas trees are eco-friendly is wrong

eco friendly option

A study showed that contrary to popular belief, real Christmas trees are a more eco-friendly option than fake Christmas trees. Image: CC Flare/Flickr

Fake Christmas trees are preferred over the real thing by a wide margin in the U.S. Sales of fake Christmas trees are expected to approach a record 13 million this year. However, people who think fake Christmas trees are more eco-friendly than real Christmas trees should think again.

More Americans prefer fake Christmas trees

Fake Christmas trees will be decorating about 50 million houses this year, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. Americans used about 28 million real Christmas trees last year. The latest fake Christmas trees, almost exclusively made in China, are remarkably realistic and come with convenient features such as built-in lighting and one-step setup. Most people who choose fake Christmas trees also think they’re doing the environment a favor by not killing a real tree. But a recent study shows that claim to be erroneous.

Fake Christmas trees: carcinogens, landfills

Real Christmas trees are a more eco-friendly option that fake Christmas trees, according to Ellipsos, a Montreal environmental consulting firm. In a study released in 2009, Ellipsos found that a fake Christmas tree would have to see 20 holiday seasons before it was a “greener” choice than buying a real Christmas tree every year. Criteria in the study included greenhouse gas emissions, sustainability and human health. Fake Christmas trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chemical that emanates carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. Plus, fake Christmas trees made out of metal and plastic can’t be recycled and end up in a landfill after six to 10 years.

Real Christmas trees: oxygen, habitat, compost

About 400 million real Christmas trees are grown on tree farms in the U.S. About 30 million are cut each year. The living, growing trees generate oxygen, absorb greenhouse gases and provide wildlife habitat. Christmas tree farms also allow large open spaces not suitable for food crops to be productive enough to avoid developers’ bulldozers. Many cities offer free recycling for real Christmas trees that are turned into compost or mulch. Plus, a real Christmas tree fills a home with a wonderful evergreen aroma instead of PVC fumes.


New York Times

San Francisco Chronicle


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