A study by the American Christmas Tree Association highlights the ways that both artificial Christmas trees and natural Christmas trees can be environmentally friendly, taking into account factors including tree origin, tree miles traveled and length of time the tree will be kept. In truth, both trees have green benefits.
Benefits of Natural Christmas Trees
When considering an evergreen Christmas tree, shop local to minimize environmental impact. If you can visit a nearby tree farm or purchase a tree that traveled only a short distance, you'll use fewer emissions than with an artificial tree.
While farmed trees grow, they provide shelter for animals, introduce oxygen into the air, filter carbon monoxide and fix nitrogen in the soil ... all environmental benefits. Consumers who feel guilty cutting down a tree can investigate plantable Christmas trees that can be planted after use or miniature evergreens that can be stored like a houseplant and used for holidays to come.
Artificial trees cannot be recycled and are not biodegradable, so they do represent landfill waste. Natural Christmas trees biodegrade, nourishing the earth. Many municipalities offer tree-recycling programs that make eco-conscious tree disposal convenient for consumers.
Benefits of Artificial Christmas Trees
If you purchase a tree every single year and you cannot purchase locally, an artificial tree can be a greener route as long as you keep it for at least nine years. These can be more cost effective than traditional trees, which add up in cost when purchased annually. However, if you purchase an artificial tree and then trade it in for a newer artificial tree every three to five years, you lose the benefits.
Artificial trees don't require the routine watering that natural trees need. They also work well for people who want trees, but will not be home to take care of them.
With both, you'll consume more electricity should you decorate with Christmas lights. Use a timer to limit resources consumption during the holiday season.
Choosing the Right Tree for Your Space
Big or tall, spruce or pine, real or artificial - no matter your preference, there is an art to selecting the right Christmas tree and caring for it so it looks its best on Christmas Day.
Selecting Your Real Tree
How tall are your ceilings? If you aren't sure, then you risk bringing home a tree that is too tall to fit in your living room or having to relegate your favorite tree topper to the mantle. Measure your ceiling height, your topper height, and your tree stand height before shopping for your tree.
It is also worth checking the stand's diameter since your tree trunk must fit into the stand (or you will need to purchase a larger stand). Stripping off tree bark to slim the diameter harms the tree, making it more susceptible to dying before the holiday.
Now that you know the maximum tree height and trunk width, you can screen individual trees. Stand back from the tree and assess its form, which is largely a matter of personal preference. You might prefer a squat, bushy tree or a tall, lean tree, depending on your aesthetics and the size of your room at home. If space is cramped, a tabletop tree may work.
Check the freshness of a live tree by crushing a few needles in your hand. Your fingers should smell fresh and piney. Test the branches by pinching down on a branch with your thumb and forefinger and pulling toward you. The needles should remain on the tree; if this action leaves you with a palm full of needles, the tree is past its prime.
Selecting Your Artificial Tree
The same size considerations apply for an artificial tree as for a real tree.
One of the main decisions you will need to make concerns the tree's appearance: Do you want an artificial Christmas tree that looks like a real evergreen, or a fake Christmas tree that is obviously artificial? Plenty of trees come with a dusting of fake snow, glitter, or other accent. Some are even made of tinsel, feathers, or other materials. The more realistic or decorated you want the tree, the more expensive it will be.
An artificial tree should be flame retardant and fade resistant for safety and durability.
If you prefer the tree look like the real deal, search for a Christmas tree made of PE instead of PVC. While both are types of plastic, PE trees fabricate the needles and branches together, so the end result looks more true to life.
With either real or artificial trees, a little time spent picking the right tree will pay you back with holiday cheer.