Choosing a Christmas Tree: Real or Fake?

A real Christmas tree from our farmEach holiday season, shoppers find themselves confronted with a choice: celebrate with a fresh, real tree, or one that is artificial plastic or aluminum. What most people don’t realize is that the best choice has ALWAYS been the traditional and natural choice – a real Christmas tree.

Real Christmas Trees Benefit the Environment

While they’re growing, real Christmas trees support life by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen.

The farms that grow Christmas trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife while creating scenic green belts. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soil that doesn’t support other crops.

Fake Christmas Trees Harm the Environment

Artificial Christmas treeMost artificial trees are manufactured in China and contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride). In fact, artificial Christmas trees were recently added to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s list of household products containing PVC.

According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, the manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemicals known. 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.

This issue is especially concerning due to China’s weak enforcement of environmental regulations.


Real Christmas Trees are Renewable

Real Christmas trees are grown on farms just like any other crop. To ensure a constant supply, Christmas tree growers plant approximately one to three new seedlings for every tree they harvest.

On the other hand, artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories. The average family uses an artificial tree for only six to nine years before throwing it away, where it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal.

Real Christmas Trees are Recyclable

Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes.  Most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China. Almost 10 million fake trees were sold worldwide in 2003.

Most artificial Christmas trees are made of metals and plastics. The plastic material, typically PVC, can be a potential source of hazardous lead. The potential for lead poisoning is great enough that fake trees made in China are required by California Prop 65 to have a warning label.

Fake Christmas Trees Are Not Fireproof

Overloaded electrical outlets and faulty wires are the most common causes of holiday fires in residences.  These are just as likely to affect artificial trees as real trees.

In 2004, the Farmington Hills Fire Department in metropolitan Detroit conducted a test of how real and artificial trees react in a house fire. The artificial tree, which was advertised as “flame retardant,” did resist the flames for an amount of time, but then was engulfed in flames and projected significant heat and toxic smoke, containing hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin.