- Author: Edward Walbolt
It's that time of the year again when holiday tree lots begin to set up shop and artificial trees are placed out in the local retailers for sale. As a sustainable gardener I often find myself wondering the age old question, is an artificial tree more environmentally friendly than a real tree? The answer to this question will likely be the basis for my chosen display choice this year so I began to investigate the facts behind both options.
We have had a fake tree for the past 10 years and we are ready for a new one as it is worn out. Some of the issues with artificial trees are that about 95% of them are manufactured in China (including the one I have) and take large quantities of fossil fuel to transport from China to our market here. They are largely made of non-biodegradable plastic and studies show they need to be used at least 10 years to make them an environmentally friendly decision. Most are discarded after an average of only 6 years and then sit in landfills for decades because they don't decompose and cannot be recycled. In contrast, real trees help regulate carbon dioxide while they are being raised, emitting oxygen into our air. They are largely recycled after use creating secondary products like mulch and compost. Real tree farms employ hundreds of thousands of Americans who are dedicated to growing healthy beautiful trees for families to one day idolize, decorate and enjoy memories of. The fossil fuels needed to pick up a local real cut tree are minor compared to a trip over from China.
A downside to some tree farms is the usage of pesticides and fertilizers during production which can pollute ground water and soils of unscrupulous users. My conclusion is that a real tree may be the more green choice when deciding on what kind of holiday tree one displays this season. I will soon be getting in my eco station wagon to take the family down to the real tree lot this year, the first time in a decade, so we can get a real tree. It is always an "experience" and I'll feel better about the reason why I am there this year.