Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees

In case you’ve missed this bit of news amid all the Occupy Wall Street and Kim Kardashian coverage, there’s a war going on. It’s not a war on Christmas; it’s a war about Christmas trees. The infamous Christmas tree “tax” is just the tip of the iceberg. Grinches and Scrooges on both sides of the issue have come out with lights blazing to take a stand on the issue of real vs. fake. If you are planning to buy a tree this year, here are the facts (or propaganda) proponents on each side of the aisle are pushing:


With an artificial tree, consumption is cut substantially because you can buy one tree and use it for 20 years or more. That’s in contrast to buying 20 live trees. Some cities don’t have the equipment to mulch discarded natural Christmas trees and these end up in the landfill. On the other hand, it takes a lot of energy and raw material to create a fake tree. Consuming live trees may use less fossil fuel over the long run. Most live Christmas trees in the U.S. are grown and harvested using at least a minimum standard of sustainable forestry practices.


From a toxicity standpoint, artificial trees have a horrible reputation. Most fake trees sold in the U.S. come from China where environmental regulations are lax. Workers and communities may be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals used in the production process. Some fake trees are contaminated with lead and could prove to be a hazard in your home. At the same time, the pesticides used in growing live trees in the U.S. aren’t very environmentally friendly either. They run off into the ground water, increasing pollution. However, buying locally does give you more control as a consumer (and it’s good for the economy).


Artificial trees are a favorite for allergy sufferers. Even people with severe cedar allergies can enjoy festive greenery that’s plastic rather than plant based. Live tree advocates recommend the Leyland Cypress as an allergy-friendly Christmas tree; but some people still have a reaction to this species.

Fire Hazard

The controversy over which type of tree poses a bigger fire threat is ongoing. Fake and real trees are both combustible if exposed to flames. Sellers of live trees point out that a fresh tree that hasn’t dried out won’t catch fire easily. You can find out more about trees and fire safety at Whatever you decide, have a safe and merry holiday season!

Tags: Shopping