Eco Friendly Christmas Tree

Fake vs. Real and Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree Options

When it comes to Christmas, there are many different ways to signify the season. One popular choice is to get a Christmas tree. But which is better for the environment, a real or fake Christmas tree? If you're looking for an eco-friendly option, you can do a few different things. 

This is a question that many people ask around this time of year, especially if you’re taking stock of what you need for a zero-waste Christmas. So let's take a look at the pros and cons of each option to help you choose the most sustainable option for your home.

We'll also be sharing a list of eco-friendly Christmas trees to choose from.

Related: For a range of gift ideas perfect for around the base of a tree, check out our recommendations for eco-friendly stocking stuffers, and swing by our Christmas quotes to get you in the mood for a merry Christmas. 

Real Christmas Trees vs. Fake Christmas Trees: Which is Better?

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Real Christmas Trees vs. Fake Christmas Trees
Photo by Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash

In this section, let's take a quick look at the environmental benefits and harms of real (living) Christmas trees vs. artificial (fake) Christmas trees. Read on to answer “are fake Christmas trees bad” and whether live or fake wins out. 

Living Christmas trees

Environmental benefits

  • Live trees are a renewable resource – ideally, we can harvest them knowing there’s always next year’s crop.
  • Live trees grow for an average of 12 years. During that time, they sequester carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the air.
  • Unlike fake trees, real trees are biodegradable and can be composted. After the holidays, they can be chopped up and used as mulch in gardens and parks.
  • Real trees support the Christmas tree farming industry, which in turn supports rural economies.

Environmental harm

  • Farmers may use harmful chemicals and pesticides that can pollute the air and water to grow live Christmas trees.
  • A real tree can be a fire hazard if not correctly cared for.
  • A real Christmas tree can take a lot of time and effort to dispose of properly.

Artificial Christmas trees

Environmental benefits

  • Some artificial trees are made of recycled materials, reusing plastics that would have otherwise gone to landfills.
  • Artificial Christmas trees last much longer than natural trees, so you don't have to throw out your Christmas tree for decades.
  • Once purchased, artificial Christmas trees don't contribute to emissions.

Environmental harm

  • Increased waste - an artificial tree will last for many years, and plastic trees will also last for many years in a landfill long after the holiday season. 
  • Pollution from manufacturing - PVC (the main component of artificial trees) is incredibly polluting, with carcinogens such as dioxin released into the air and water supplies. This process contributes to carbon emissions fueling climate change.
  • Toxic metals - PVC also contains lead and other toxic metals, which can leach out when disposed of improperly or comes into contact with water or heat (e.g., when a plastic tree is stored1). These toxins can contaminate soil and groundwater supplies on disposal and pose a serious health risk to humans and animals alike.
  • Unused real trees - every year, millions of real trees are chopped down specifically so they can be sold as festive decorations. Buying an artificial tree instead does nothing to alleviate this problem; it may even worsen if people start thinking there’s no need for real trees anymore!
  • Energy consumption - producing artificial trees takes much more energy, increasing their carbon footprint.
  • Global transportation - increased carbon emissions from transporting artificial trees across continents, many are made far away in the manufacturing hubs in Asia.
  • Santa doesn’t like fake trees

Okay... so the last one isn't true. But even with all the points above, it is not 100% conclusive that choosing a living Christmas tree proves better for the environment. As we can see, choosing a real tree still has some consequences. However, in most cases, it is better to go for a living tree over a fake one.

Here are some cases in which you can use an artificial Christmas tree:

  • If you already have a fake Christmas tree, keep using it for as long as possible. That would be the best way to reduce its environmental impact.
  • If you buy a fake tree from a thrift store or second-hand, thereby preventing it from going to a landfill.

3 Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree Choices

A real tree from your local Christmas tree farm

Living Christmas trees
Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

Real trees are the most sustainable Christmas tree options, provided they are grown sustainably and locally. So go for one if you can. Local Christmas tree farms are typically small, family-run businesses that care greatly about properly growing and harvesting trees. They usually use sustainable growing practices, such as planting new trees to replace harvested ones. 

In addition, Christmas tree farms often use organic methods to care for their trees, such as using natural pest control instead of chemicals. 

Before you purchase a Christmas tree from a local farm, ask about their approach to eco-friendliness and growing with care. You can also ask if they can sell you a potted Christmas tree so you can continue to grow it after the Christmas season.

Buying from a nearby farm also supports local businesses in your community - you create jobs. So this holiday season, consider getting your Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm!

These farms also offer a great place to get into the Christmas spirit. Nothing says "Christmas is here," like walking between rows of beautiful Christmas trees.

Also, look around locally as a growing number of companies offer live tree rental or a potted tree they take back after the holiday season. 

Oncor Recycled Trees

Oncor has been manufacturing unlit artificial Christmas trees from recycled PVC plastic since 1980. Oncor makes Christmas trees using 100% recycled PVC plastic instead of new plastic, reducing the use of fossil fuels in the production process and reusing a readily available material.

They offer trees in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Their most popular offerings include the Black Forest and Frosted Silver Fir trees.

Oncor trees are made from high-quality raw materials and parts, ensuring a minimum 30-year lifespan. The company's green boxes are made of recycled cardboard, allowing consumers to reuse them for storage after Christmas. Oncor designs these trees and their packaging to reduce the environmental impact of your Christmas celebration.

Shop on Amazon 

Spira Large by LukaZajcDesignShop

Spira Wooden Christmas Tree
Photo Credit: LukaZajcDesignShop

Spira Large is a sustainable Christmas tree made of laser-cut plywood and a wooden stand. It winds into a beautiful spiral and stands at 138cm. The whole tree can be assembled and disassembled quickly and comes packed in 5 cm/2 in a high cardboard box.

Spira Large is an eco-friendly, minimalistic, modern Christmas tree that adds a unique touch to any interior. It will last for many years, and it's the perfect choice for those who want to decorate in a stylish, eco-friendly way.

Shop on Etsy

Admire The Wood

Admire The Wood

Admire The Wood offers wooden Christmas trees made from sustainable, natural materials. Its founders started the company so people don't have to buy a new tree every year and then throw it away.

They offer four Christmas tree types, each in five different sizes. You can change the configuration of the branches and give the form you like. You can rotate the branches around their axis, so different appearance variations are available to you – chaotic, spiral, waves, etc.

Admire The Wood's Christmas trees fit classic toys and other decorations. A wooden tree is a different and delightful experience, so your guests and loved ones will not remain indifferent at the sight of such a Christmas tree.

Shop on Admire the Wood

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree the Eco-Friendly Way

Eco Friendly Christmas Tree Decorations
Photo by Vlad Vasnetsov on Unsplash
  • Use LED lights instead of traditional Christmas lights.
  • Don't use a lot of tinsel or other shiny decorations, which have a significant environmental impact.
  • Use natural materials like branches, pinecones, and berries to decorate your tree.
  • If you have a fake Christmas tree, wrap the base in recycled wrapping paper or cloth instead of buying new paper every year.
  • Place your tree in a pot or other container instead of leaving it in a stand, which they can often make from metal or plastic

How to Dispose of Your Real Tree after Christmas

  • Recycle cut trees by mulching them in a wood chipper and using them in your garden
  • Take the tree to a recycling center or waste management site
  • Leave your cut tree outside for pick up by your municipality's yard waste collection service

How to Store Your Artificial Tree after Christmas

  • Disconnect all lights and decorations
  • Make sure the tree is completely dry before storing
  • Wrap your tree in wrapping paper or cloth
  • Put the tree in a storage container
  • Store in a cool, dry place

Conclusion

When it comes to Christmas trees, there are many options to choose from. You can go with artificial ones, natural trees, or even recycled ones. No matter your choice, make sure it's the most eco-friendly Christmas tree available to you. You should also decorate your tree in an eco-conscious way. This will help reduce the waste produced during the holiday season and keep your home festive and shiny without harming the environment.

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1

Alabi, O. & Ologbonjaye, Kehinde & Awosolu, Oluwaseun & Alalade, Olufiropo. (2019). Public and Environmental Health Effects of Plastic Wastes Disposal: A Review. Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment. 5. 10.23937/2572-4061.1510021.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash
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