Living Green, One Tip at a Time – (a weekly feature)

Tip # 36
Real versus Artificial
(Christmas trees people…I’m talking about Christmas trees!!)
     For many years I felt guilty buying a real tree. I was, in essence, killing a living thing and depleting a much needed natural resource.  Deep down I knew most, if not all, tree growers practised a one out, one in system to ensure a constant supply of trees, but, I was still racked with guilt.
     Every Dec 26th as I drove by the abandoned tree lots, as I gazed upon the unwanted and unloved carcasses left lying in the snow…I had to cover my ears in an attempt to drown out their mournful cries.
     Apparently however, instead of feelings of guilt I should have been experiencing pride for making the environmentally correct choice…who knew?? 
     Until I started researching this “ethical dilemma” of mine, I was beginning to lean toward an artificial tree. After all, they are re-used every year and don’t generate the waste of their “real” cousins.  
     However, what I didn’t realize was artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum derived plastic.  Also, during the production phase of PVC, several known carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride are generated.
     While there seems to be, for many, no definitive answer to the real versus fake question, it is clear that many environmentalists feel real trees are the better choice.
     In the most comprehensive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.
     “The natural tree is a better option,” said Jean-Sebastien Trudel, founder of the firm, Ellipsos, which  released the independent study last year.
     With all of that being said I guess the most eco-friendly option is to have no tree or to purchase a live tree with its roots intact from a local grower and then replant it in your yard when Christmas is over. (For those of us that have cold winters, better dig that hole before the frost is four feet deep.) 
We’ve always had a real tree and I can’t see that changing in the near future. 

What about you… real or fake?

Much of the factual information contained in this post was accessed from the following websites:


  1. Teena in Toronto says:

    We don't do a tree … we don't have room and our cats would demolish it.

  2. We haven't been able to do a real tree yet.. I remember cleaning up tree needles for months as a kid though so I'm fine with fake ones..I didn't know about the chemical part though..interesting.

    Visiting from MBS and following via G+, Twitter , GFC and fb :D

  3. real – a very small one due to my very small house and surprisingly, the cats pretty much leave it alone.

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