Real vs. Fake Christmas Trees – Which are better?

December 4, 2015


It’s that time of the year again. Your neighbors have already finished decorating their house with lights, ornaments and Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving, but you’re still debating whether it is more eco-friendly to cut down a live Christmas tree or if you should stop by the store for an artificial one.

The answer to this much debated problem might surprise you!


Harmful Chemicals

According to Rodale’s Organic Life, fake trees are made from the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and the toxic chemical dioxin is released during PVC production. PVC is one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic. Not only is it harmful to the environment but also to your health.

Real trees are also treated with chemicals to avoid pest problems. Those chemicals have been proven to be harmful to some animals and human cells. It seems as if no matter what option you choose, you can’t avoid putting your health at risk but there is an important differentiation.

Christmas tree growers in western North Carolina, with the help of NC State University, have learned a better way of growing trees called IPM (Integrated Pest Management). It’s a way of using less — fewer pesticides and fertilizers — to grow a better looking tree. NC State researchers have determined that trees grown in North Carolina need only a quarter of an ounce of pesticide per tree over the course of the tree’s lifetime. Pest management surveys conducted by NC Cooperative Extension specialists have documented a 71% decrease in pesticide use from 2000 to 2013.When searching for the perfect tree do some research online and find organic tree farms. You’ll be surprised how many local pest-free farms are in your own state!

Local = Sustainable

Did you know that North Carolina is the second largest Christmas Tree Producer? A WNCN article recently stated, that since around 98 percent of all trees produced in North Carolina come from just seven Western counties, nearly two million trees are cut in Ashe County alone.

On the other hand, nearly 80% of artificial Christmas trees are made in China. The carbon footprint just to transport those trees to your living room is immense. According to this Treehugger article, the estimated total CO2 emissions for an artificial tree are over 1,37lbs. Consider supporting your local farmer by buying a real tree this year.


Fake trees can’t be recycled should you decide to ditch it for a newer model. Due to its material it will end up in a landfill and stay there forever. Ask yourself, how many years do you actually reuse your fake tree before buying a new one? Every year they come up with newer, better Christmas Trees to ensure the customer will buy another one. The average life cycle of a fake Christmas tree is only 6 to 7 years. Eventually, they all go to the landfill as garbage.

In comparison, real Christmas trees are a renewable and recyclable resource. There are many options to recycle your live tree after all the festivities are over. The National Christmas Tree Association has many tips for recycling your tree such as participating in a mulching program where trees are chipped and shredded and then they make the mulch available for use in your garden.

You can also buy a small potted real tree. After the holidays you can transplant it outside. Not only do you save landfill space but you’re also contributing to the reduction of CO2 for many years to come.

The Ultimate Holiday Experience

Finally, don’t forget the special memories you will make when picking and cutting a tree with your family. Cut your own tree or select a pre-cut tree while enjoying hot chocolate or roasted marshmallows. Everybody will look forward to this fun family tradition each year. Choose your tree species, desired amenities and your city or county and the NC Christmas Tree Association will provide you with a list of tree farms near you that meet your criteria.


We hope you enjoy your holiday season with the perfect Christmas tree for you and your family.