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Pine Or Plastic: Which Christmas Tree Is Better For The Planet?

Here's the ~green~ thing to do.

Before you go and spray-paint "SCROOGE" all over my car, please know that I'm not about to suggest you forgo a Christmas tree this year.

I would never do that! Christmas trees are the best! Also, joke's on you, I DON'T OWN A CAR.
Evelyn / Via unsplash.com

I would never do that! Christmas trees are the best! Also, joke's on you, I DON'T OWN A CAR.

That said, I am about to drop some environmental knowledge that you should take into account if you're deciding whether to get a real or artificial Christmas tree this year.

~Fa la la la la, consider the earth~
Annie Spratt / Via unsplash.com

~Fa la la la la, consider the earth~

An artificial tree might seem like the obvious choice here because it's reusable, but in reality, you have to keep it for more than 20 years to reduce your environmental impact.

And that's...not exactly happening. The average American household only keeps its artificial tree for around six years before it's dumped in the trash and sent to a landfill. Those short few years aren't enough to equalize the hazardous effects of an artificial tree — namely, the carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) released by the PVC plastic used to manufacture it. Not to mention, artificial trees require lots of energy to be shipped from China to the US, and once tossed onto a landfill, will contribute to methane emissions for centuries.There are, of course, pros to going with an artificial tree, like reducing the risk of household fires that dried-out real trees can pose, eliminating symptoms for those allergic to pine trees, and saving money over the years. (Okay, and the lack of needles all over the floor). In fact, 81% of American homes say they're displaying an artificial tree this year. So, no judgment there — we're just sharing some environmental stats.
Element5 Digital / Via unsplash.com

And that's...not exactly happening. The average American household only keeps its artificial tree for around six years before it's dumped in the trash and sent to a landfill. Those short few years aren't enough to equalize the hazardous effects of an artificial tree — namely, the carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) released by the PVC plastic used to manufacture it. Not to mention, artificial trees require lots of energy to be shipped from China to the US, and once tossed onto a landfill, will contribute to methane emissions for centuries.

There are, of course, pros to going with an artificial tree, like reducing the risk of household fires that dried-out real trees can pose, eliminating symptoms for those allergic to pine trees, and saving money over the years. (Okay, and the lack of needles all over the floor). In fact, 81% of American homes say they're displaying an artificial tree this year. So, no judgment there — we're just sharing some environmental stats.

Real trees, on the other hand, produce oxygen, provide a habitat for wildlife while they grow, often come from family-owned businesses, and can be recycled after Christmas.

Let's be ~real~ here, the benefits of purchasing a real tree are kind of undeniable. Cleaning the air and housing lil' woodland creatures? Yes, please. Plus, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't hurt the environment to take home a real Christmas tree — they're not cut down from wild forests, but grown on a farm to be harvested like any other crop. Most of those farms are family-owned businesses too, which provide more than 100,000 jobs, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).Best of all, real trees are biodegradable, so they can be recycled and used in things like mulch, bird feeders, and hiking paths. The NCTA reports that there are more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs in the US, so if you're going with fresh-cut this year, check out your local program. The only other thing to keep in mind? Driving. Try to avoid traveling far and wide to find the perfect real tree, since this increases carbon emissions.
Cindy Shebley / Getty Images

Let's be ~real~ here, the benefits of purchasing a real tree are kind of undeniable. Cleaning the air and housing lil' woodland creatures? Yes, please. Plus, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't hurt the environment to take home a real Christmas tree — they're not cut down from wild forests, but grown on a farm to be harvested like any other crop. Most of those farms are family-owned businesses too, which provide more than 100,000 jobs, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).

Best of all, real trees are biodegradable, so they can be recycled and used in things like mulch, bird feeders, and hiking paths. The NCTA reports that there are more than 4,000 Christmas tree recycling programs in the US, so if you're going with fresh-cut this year, check out your local program. The only other thing to keep in mind? Driving. Try to avoid traveling far and wide to find the perfect real tree, since this increases carbon emissions.

So, which tree should you actually get? Well, I know this isn't the definitive answer you were hoping for, but it really depends on your lifestyle.

If you plan to reuse your artificial tree for the foreseeable future — or you need to, you know, be able to breathe because you're allergic to fir or pine trees — by all means, get an artificial tree. As long as you keep it for a while (e.g. more than 20 years), its lifespan really can even out the negative side effects of manufacturing and shipping it.If you have the ability to purchase either, consider going with a real tree, since the pros significantly outweigh the cons. Just be sure to buy it locally and recycle it when the time comes. And, I mean, how fun is it to pick one out and smell its glorious pine scent around the house?
Daeun Kim / Via unsplash.com

If you plan to reuse your artificial tree for the foreseeable future — or you need to, you know, be able to breathe because you're allergic to fir or pine trees — by all means, get an artificial tree. As long as you keep it for a while (e.g. more than 20 years), its lifespan really can even out the negative side effects of manufacturing and shipping it.

If you have the ability to purchase either, consider going with a real tree, since the pros significantly outweigh the cons. Just be sure to buy it locally and recycle it when the time comes. And, I mean, how fun is it to pick one out and smell its glorious pine scent around the house?

Also, the truth is, considering the much larger environmental impact of travel and consumerism this Christmas, your tree doesn't really matter.

Your Christmas tree choice is much less important than the choices you can make to cut down on paper, plastic, and food waste during the holidays. So, don't stress too hard over this — you've got enough going on this season already.
freestocks.org / Via unsplash.com

Your Christmas tree choice is much less important than the choices you can make to cut down on paper, plastic, and food waste during the holidays. So, don't stress too hard over this — you've got enough going on this season already.

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