Should You Get an Artificial Tree for Christmas This Year?

Environmental Impact of Christmas Trees

The environmental impacts of real vs. artificial Christmas trees are pretty much even. The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) commissioned a study that was published in 2010. The ACTA is a manufacturer of artificial trees. The 109-page report is loaded with technical jargon; just the table of contents is over two pages. According to the study provided by the ACTA, here are a few tips for your Christmas Tree:

  • If you go natural, try to select locally-grown.
  • Minimize the number of miles driven to acquire the tree.
  • The reports show that driving to get the tree has more impacts than the tree itself.
  • You will need to use an artificial tree for 8-9 years before certain benefits exceed those of an annual natural tree.
  • When an artificial tree is replaced, consider donating the old tree.
  • Where possible, dispose of natural trees in re-purposeful ways, such as mulch.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Trees

Pros:

  • Real trees are recyclable. They can be recycled into mulch and then used in landscaping and gardening or they can be chipped and turned into wood.
  • Real Christmas trees are sold all over the world and help employ hundreds of thousands of workers. So real trees provide annual work and it is even considered a profitable business.
  • Christmas trees are grown specifically so they can be sold on this holiday and the rest of the year they provide us with oxygen and offer shelter for wildlife. For every tree cut down, one or two are being planted in its place in the spring.
  • Real Christmas trees have a wonderful smell and they make the whole house feel fresh.

Cons:

  • Real Christmas trees cost a lot. And when this expense is compared to a one time purchase of an artificial tree, it’s not a profitable investment.
  • Real trees are also high maintenance. They need to be watered constantly and they drop needles on the floor.
  • In some areas of the globe, it’s very difficult to find real Christmas trees because of the climate. There are areas where coniferous trees don’t grow so they have to be transported from elsewhere.

Pros and Cons of Artificial Trees

Pros:

  • Buying an artificial tree is more convenient. 
  • They’re a great investment which you get to enjoy and use year after year.
  • Artificial trees are low maintenance. They don’t need watering and they don’t drop needles.
  • Transporting an artificial tree from the store to your home is not an issue. They can be packed and ready to go in no time.

Cons:

  • Artificial trees are made from PVC plastic and they can harbor lead which can spread inside your home. Also, PVC plastics release dioxins over time and they are toxic to both humans and animals.
  • PVC is a non-biodegradable material so once you throw away the tree it will stay there forever.
  • Artificial trees can’t be recycled because the plastic fibers are fused with glue to the frame.
  • Artificial trees are a fire hazard and they’re more dangerous in a fire than real trees.

Types of Artificial Trees

Here is a list of the top 10 best artificial Christmas trees that are on the market right now:

Blue Spruce:

Balsam Hill's Blue Spruce Premium Artificial Christmas Tree is a lush, full-bodied tree built to last. With just over 2,000 tree tips made of PVC and a foliage warranty, it's nearly indestructible—a quality that certainly sets it apart as one of the best artificial Christmas trees available. And in a season where add-ons add up, the included heavy-duty storage bag, fuse switch, and replacement bulbs make it a bargain, too! Available on Amazon; $249 for a 6' pre-lit tree. 

Classic Pine:

Christmas classics are hard to beat, and this fake pine tree by Finley Home is a perfect example. With a base broad enough to nestle every present under the tree and high counts for both tips and lights—either clear or multicolor—this bushy beauty is a steal! Available on Hayneedle; $$153.82 and up (currently on sale for $82.11 and up).

Perfect Pop-Up:

The holidays don't have to be a hassle. For no-stress decorating, consider a pop-up tree instead of a traditional Christmas tree. With poinsettia accents and 200-holiday lights as well as ribbons, bows, and ornaments peppering its tall but narrow shape, this artificial Christmas tree is perfect for small spaces—and people who want to avoid the struggle of stuffing the tree back into the box this December. Available from Amazon; $139.99. 

Artfully Accented:

An array of cashmere and bristle branch tips on this 7.5' Carolina Pine Tree from National Tree Company create a straight-from-the-forest feel for the homeowner not interested in felling their own tree. Plus, it arrives already trimmed 750 clear lights—in addition to 70 pinecones and 1,393 branch tips—making it even more convenient than its freshly cut counterpart. Available from Amazon; $284.41.

Fully Flocked:

Only dreaming of a white Christmas? Create your own winter wonderland with this frosted, full-size pick from the Sterling Tree Company. Modeled after a pine tree, this pre-lit Christmas miracle measures 7' tall and 84" wide. With more 595 tips, there's plenty of spots to hang ornaments, tinsel, and added garlands. Available on Hayneedle; $553.82 (currently on sale for $295.98)

Corner Tree:

This artificial evergreen has 5,768 tips to thank for its lifelike quality, each featuring a precise blend of 70 percent PE True Needle™ tips and 30 percent PVC Classic Needles. The tree comes with a tree stand, storage bags, cotton gloves, extra bulbs and fuses, and an on/off foot pedal for the lights. Plus, rest assured that when you choose to invest in one of the best artificial Christmas trees for your home, it will last for years to come—its 3-Year Limited Light Warranty guarantee it. Available from Amazon; $649.

Pencil-Thin Pine:

Whether you live in a rental or are tight on space even before the tree, consider a slim corner evergreen instead of a full-sized fake. Available from 5 to 9 feet tall, this sleek Pre-Lit Pencil Tree by Finley Home is a perfect space-saver without sacrificing lush branches trimmed with your choice of clear or multi-colored lights. Available on Hayneedle; $153.82 and up (currently on sale for $65.98 and up).

Downswept Douglas:

The traditional Douglas fir from the National Tree Company comes in eight light and height combinations—versatility that makes this style the best artificial Christmas tree option for almost any space. Outfitted with clear or multicolor lights, the authentic placement of the tree's emerald green foliage lends both authenticity and opportune placement for ornament display. Available on Amazon; $369.83.

The Charlie Brown Choice:

This modern mini-tree, modeled after a fir, is just at home on your front lawn as in your living room. Warm white LED bulbs will light up your winter nights with a cozy, hearth-like glow. Bendable, frosted branches won't overpower your favorite ornaments during the season and, when it ends, fold down for easy storage. Available from Amazon; $39.99 and up.

Snow White:

For a twist on traditional trees, try this 7.5' stunner from the Sterling Tree Company. The sparkling white branches are the perfect backdrop for glistening pre-strung lights. With a classic Christmas tree shape and modern styling, it makes an elegant pick for any living room. Available on Hayneedle; $553.82 (currently on sale for $229.99). 

Conclusion

Artificial or real, the choice is more personal than environmental. So as you prepare for this holiday season, take the time to consider your situation in life and how long you will be in your current home. If you are pretty sure you won’t be moving anytime soon, an artificial tree might be perfect for you. While on the other hand, if you are constantly moving, a more traditional approach may work better. But when it comes down to it, Christmas is about tradition. Follow and keep the traditions that are important to you. And know, that regardless of your choice, both types of trees have an impact on the environment. Have a very merry Christmas!

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Tyler Farr
 

Tyler is an energetic nature enthusiast who is currently considering moving into a tiny house. Tyler and his wife enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and doing anything in the great outdoors. He hopes that the articles he writes will help others learn how important it is to take care of the environment.

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