With Christmas fast approaching, many are already thinking about whether they will get a real or fake tree this year. Before you decide, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each.
Many believe that a fake tree is the more environmentally friendly decision, but this is actually a myth. Most fake trees are made of petroleum-derived plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is non-biodegradable and can end up in landfills for many decades.
A large majority of artificial trees are shipped from places such as China, which adds to the overall environmental impact, considering fuel usage in transportation. On average, people keep their artificial tree for six years before replacing it, giving artificial trees three times more impact on the environment than a real tree.
Although a real Christmas tree is generally seen as the less eco-conscious choice, they actually have more benefits. Buying a real tree is beneficial because trees soak up and store carbon in the atmosphere. Our friends at Forests Ontario note that a one-acre Christmas trees farm can give off enough daily oxygen for 18 people.
Christmas trees are grown as a crop on tree farms. They are grown for six to 10 years before they are cut and sold to the public. During their growth period, these trees provide habitat for many different animals. When you buy a real tree from your local tree farm, you support additional tree planting.
Real trees can also be recycled. Most regional waste management services have programs in place, like the ones at the Regions of Peel and Halton, where your old tree is picked up at the curb and repurposed. Old Christmas trees are turned into mulch, chipped for playgrounds and used to create hiking trails.
We started a program in 2008 that uses Christmas trees to help restore the Credit River from erosion. Old Christmas trees are used as a natural barrier to limit erosion and create ideal conditions for new plant life to grow.
If you are really ambitious, you can buy a potted tree that can be replanted at the end of the season. However, if you plan on replanting your tree, make sure you water it every day and only keep it indoors for a week or two. Planting can take place after the spring thaw.