Real or Artificial Trees: Which are Greener?
by SOPHIA DUGAN '21
The Christmas tree is the centerpiece of many holiday parties around the world, often complete with ornaments, lights, garlands, and even popcorn. Some families buy a real tree every year and make the task of picking out the perfect fir a fun seasonal outing. Others go for an artificial option, which range from the “traditional” pine to brightly-colored and sparkly tree. Some people argue that artificial trees are bad for the environment, while others feel the same about real ones.
The reality is that both real and artificial trees have their environmental drawbacks. Real trees need land to grow on as well as water, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. In addition, gasoline is required to harvest and transport them. Christmas trees are grown in farms all over the country, but it’s better to buy a locally grown tree to cut down on any pollution involved in transportation.
On the other hand, manufacturing artificial trees is even worse for the environment than cutting down a real one. Not only are large amounts of plastic necessary to create a faux fir, but the trees themselves are often produced overseas, so the shipping process requires a lot of fuel. However, if you reuse an artificial tree for long enough (around six years), the environmental impact eventually evens out.
It is also important to consider what you will do with your tree after Christmas is over. The best way to dispose of a real tree is to recycle it. Many locations in the greater Cincinnati area offer drop-off centers where people can leave their trees to be turned into mulch for parks. or Cincinnati also hashave services that will pick up your tree from the curbside. For more information about recycling a Christmas tree in Cincinnati, click here.
As for artificial trees, the more years you can use them for, the better. Because artificial trees cannot be recycled, they end up being thrown away, and the plastic never decomposes. Even if you donate your tree (some retirement communities or libraries will accept them), their ultimate destination will be a landfill. An easy way around this, however, is to reuse your tree. After using it for around six years, artificial trees are actually less detrimental to the environment than real trees.
The bottom line? Both real and artificial trees have their pros and cons. If your family picks out a real tree every year, be sure to buy it locally and dispose of it in an eco-friendly way rather than just tossing it to the curb in a trash bag. If you’ve been hauling the same plastic tree out of a closet for as long as you can remember, keep doing just that! The longer you can use an artificial tree, the lesser the environmental impact. Either way, you can’t go wrong when it comes to these festive firs as long as you take these simple steps to protect our planet. Merry Christmas!