Darrin Stevens – @darrin_stevens

No matter if you have a white, brown or green holiday season, with the calendar flipping to December people all over the world are looking to break out their trusty plastic tree or are grabbing a permit in order to hunt down the perfect Charlie Brown tree for their home.

If you’re like us – and if you’re reading this, you probably are – and you’ve been wondering whether a reusable plastic tree that you can break out year after year is a more eco-friendly than a real tree, we’ve got your answer. The great people over at The New York Times published a fantastic summary of your Christmas tree options, we’ve shared some of that below for you to check out.

Real Trees

If you go with a real tree, don’t feel bad about cutting it down for the holiday. If you live in Canada or the United States, Parks provide permits for a certain number of trees that are able to be cut down. They’ve taken these trees into account for within their forest management strategies. As far as buying your real Christmas tree?

“A five- or six-foot tree takes just under a decade to grow, and once it’s cut down, the farmer will generally plant at least one in its place. The trees provide many benefits to the environment as they grow, cleaning the air and providing watersheds and habitats for wildlife. They grow best on rolling hills that are often unsuitable for other crops and, of course, they are biodegradable.” – The New York Times

Fake Trees

If you already own plastic, reusable Christmas trees and you’re wondering: “does having a reusable tree lessen your economic impact?” The answer? Maybe. Most artificial trees are made of PVC and steel in China and shipped to the United States — and eventually sent to a landfill. So while that doesn’t sound very eco-friendly, they’ve conducted a study which states:

“The ACTA claims the environmental impact is lower than that of a real tree if you use the artificial tree for five or more years. The group argues that getting a new, real tree each year — and possibly disposing of it in a landfill at the end of the season — has a bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy use, and other areas than a reused artificial tree does.” – The New York Times

Keep in mind that this study was undertaken on the ACTA’s behalf by WAP Sustainability Consulting.

Ultimately, the greenest Christmas tree you can get would be one that’s real, local and one that you compost after the holidays. Lots of cities have composting programs where you ensure your tree gives new life to other growing things! Look on your local municipal government website to see if they have a Christmas tree compost program or cut your tree down yourself and add it to your own compost pile!