10 Reasons Not to Buy Artificial Christmas Trees

fake christmas tree

The reality of artificial Christmas trees.

Are you or are you not going to have a Christmas tree? That is the question.

And if you are going to have a tree, is it going to be a real one or an artificial one? Welcome to the annual Christmas tree debate, a debate that happens to be a bit more complex than “buy this, not that.”

Each year, Americans buy about 30 million real trees and about 13 million artificial ones. While many people buy artificial trees under the auspice that they are reusable, in a much-cited New York Times article on the subject it was noted that in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts, an environmental consulting term estimated that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years in order for it to be “greener” than buying a fresh-cut one every year.

Here are ten other facts that could sway you away from buying an artificial tree:

1. Your artificial tree has about an 85% chance of being made in China.

2. Most artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-renewable, petroleum-based plastic, whose production releases carcinogens.

3. The average family uses an artificial tree for six to nine years before it ends up in a landfill.

4. A byproduct of artificial tree factories? Industrial pollution. Byproduct of tree farms? Oxygen and absorption of carbon.

5. In the event of a fire, an artificial tree will release hazardous fumes.

6. The U.S. Christmas live tree industry creates more than 100,000 jobs.

7. An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

8. For every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.

9. This is what a Chinese tree factory looks like and this is how trees are made. This is what an American Christmas tree farm looks like and this is how the trees grow.

10. Approximately 20 million plastic trees in U.S. households have a danger of lead exposure due to aging.

Choosing to get a real tree? Just because you’re opting for a real one doesn’t mean it’s inherently sustainable. Choose an organically grown tree and cut your environmental impact down and buy local; driving three hours one way to get a tree from the wintry woods accounts for a lot of carbon emissions. And once Christmas is over? Compost that thing!

Related on EcoSalon:

11 DIY Alternatives to Real Christmas Trees

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Non-Toxic Are Your Branches

Between the Lines: Christmas is the Last Thing I Want For Christmas

Image: Theresa Thompson

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.