Are Christmas trees sustainable?

Regardless of whether you celebrate it, there’s a good chance that you know a bit about Christmas. From Santa Claus and presents to the holiday’s religious origins, American society has popularized Christmas in a way that sets it apart from other holidays—even popular ones, like Halloween and Thanksgiving. But while people associate many images with Christmas, few are as well-known as the Christmas tree.


A 2017 survey found that 95 million—76 percent—of American households display a Christmas tree each year. From the focal point of presents and parties to a place to adorn with ornaments and decorations, trees serve as the centerpiece for much of the holiday season.


 However, more and more Americans are starting to question the environmental impact of buying a Christmas tree. So what’s the verdict—can you get a tree through sustainable methods, or is it one holiday tradition best left in the past?


Read on to find out. 


Real trees

Real trees have been a part of the Christmas tradition for hundreds of years. Beautiful and fragrant, they create an aesthetic that most artificial trees struggle to beat. 


Some people might worry that buying a real Christmas tree harms the environment since it involves chopping down a tree and bringing it into your home. However, most modern Christmas trees come from farms, and as soon as one tree gets bought, another gets planted in its spot. 


That said, real trees require water and other resources to grow. While the environmental impact may not be severe in some parts of the country, it can be in drier areas, like California. 


Artificial trees

Artificial trees have gained immense popularity in the last few decades. According to the same 2017 study, around 80% of households use an artificial tree. 


These are often more expensive than their genuine counterparts, selling for an average price of $107. However, unlike real trees, most artificial trees will last for a few years. If you don’t want to worry about buying a new tree each year, investing in an artificial one can be a good option.


However, artificial trees contain materials like PVC, oil, and steel. Regardless of whether you use it for five years or ten, it’ll eventually end up sitting in a landfill. 


Additionally, most artificial trees come from other countries, like China. Before they end up on American store shelves, companies have to ship them on freighters across the world. This releases additional fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere. 


Buy local 

One way to minimize the potential environmental impact of having a Christmas tree is by buying local. No matter where you live, there’s a good chance that there’s a Christmas tree farm in your area. Getting a real tree there allows you to avoid harmful manufacturing techniques and minimize the transportation needed to get the tree.


Many communities also allow you to recycle your tree after the holidays end. That way, it doesn’t end up in a landfill—it either gets reused or made into mulch.


‘Tis the Season 

While artificial trees may be popular, real Christmas trees have a less harmful environmental impact. If you can, try to buy one grown from a local Christmas tree farm.

And remember—in the grand scheme of environmental damage, all types of Christmas trees are nothing more than a drop in the bucket. Instead of stressing about whether your tree is sustainable, enjoy the season, and spend more time scrutinizing the other areas of your life after the holidays end.

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