Carbon Footprint

Your Artificial Christmas Tree Might Not Be As Green As You Think

For those of us who can't help but get caught up in the Christmas spirit, there are a lot of big decisions to make come December. Where to hang the wreath, which ornaments to display, and, of course, which ugly Christmas sweater to wear to the office holiday party. But the biggest decisions of all, of course, pertain to your tree. How tall should you go? And should you opt for a real tree, or an artificial one?

Many people assume that buying an artificial Christmas tree is better for the environment than buying a real one, given that real trees are cut down en masse. But that's not the case. In fact, a 2009 study found that using an artificial tree for a period of six years is associated with more carbon emissions than putting up a real one each year. Taking into account greenhouse gas emissions, human health factors, and resource consumption, the study concluded that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years for its impact to be "greener" than that of real trees bought annually.

We're not telling you how to celebrate — there's nothing more sacred than a person's holiday traditions, after all — but if you're the kind of person who can't imagine Christmas without a Fraser Fir, now you've got one less thing to feel guilty about.

The Science Of Christmas Trees

Tree geneticists are working to develop better Chrismas trees.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The Fraser fir is the most popular choice for a Christmas tree. 00:11

  2. Scientists are trying to breed better Christmas trees that don't shed as many needles. 00:47

  3. Cold weather helps evergreen trees to hold their needles longer. 01:17

Christmas Trees: Real vs. Fake

There's more to the heated debate than just the environmental issues.

How Artificial Christmas Trees Are Made

Watch one get put together.

Written by Curiosity Staff December 24, 2014

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