The Age-old Debate of Artificial vs. Natural Christmas Trees – Which is Better?


Christopher Owen

Studies show that our global carbon footprint is 6% higher during the winter holidays, mainly because there is an increase in car and airplane travel and excessive waste from food, paper gift wrap, cardboard boxes, and discarded Christmas trees. Decomposing Christmas trees that are improperly disposed of in landfills can significantly contribute to the increased carbon levels. The average Christmas tree takes 7-15 years to grow and helps the planet by absorbing carbon dioxide during that period of time. Although these trees are grown on farms for the winter holidays, there is an environmental impact from cutting down them down that needs to be considered. In the U.S. and Europe, respectively, roughly 33-36 million and 50-60 million Christmas trees are grown and harvested annually. Take a moment to think about what this might mean to you. 

Below are some things to consider when choosing an artificial vs. a natural Christmas tree.

Pros of artificial Christmas trees-

– Artificial trees have been around since the 1930s, are easy to assemble, come with lights already in place and have improved in appearance to look more realistic.

– Artificial trees can be reused annually (typically between 7-9 years) which saves money, are non-allergenic, and do not need watering. 

– Real Christmas trees pose a fire hazard.

– Living trees remove carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases from the air and produce fresh oxygen.

– Trees give birds and other wildlife species a natural habitat.

– Trees protect plants that grow around their base or in the shade that they provide.

– Christmas trees may be sent to landfills if not properly recycled. At landfills, the decomposing trees produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas.


Pros of natural Christmas trees-

– Freshly cut Christmas trees are part of a long-standing tradition and provide visual and aromatic benefits.

– Christmas tree farms are typically family-owned, help sustain the rural economy and provide jobs.

– For every Christmas tree harvested, one to three tree saplings are planted to ensure a steady supply year after year.

– If properly recycled, Christmas trees can be turned into mulch and be repurposed for use in yards or on public property.

– Discarded and naturally decaying trees provide nutrients to plants, can be used to rebuild sand dunes at local beaches or dropped to the bottom of lakes to create artificial environments for fish.

– The majority of artificial trees are made in China and transported overseas consuming oil and fuel and releasing carbon emissions.

– Artificial trees are made of harmful chemicals including metals and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which when manufactured and over time produce toxic carcinogens like dioxin, ethylene dichloride, and vinyl chloride.

– Artificial trees are not recyclable or biodegradable. 


There are many pros and cons to choosing either type of tree. Which one will you choose?