The Christmas Tree Debate: Real vs. Artificial

We’re through with the first week of December so now you have no excuse to not get festive and whack your Christmas tree up. Sources say the concept of Christmas trees dates back as far as the 16thcentury [1] but these days a debate usually sparks up: a real Christmas tree or an artificial one? You may be wondering which is friendlier for the environment so we’re here to give you some points to consider.

The Traditional Evergreen

For many people, there’s no questioning that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without that traditional, fresh, Christmas tree smell in the living room (did you know you can now get sprays that give off this scent if your tree is fake? Crazy). We’re sure many of you love that annual trip to pick the perfect Christmas tree for your home with the inevitable disagreements: is it too tall? Is this one too wide? Surely, we can get a bigger one? And to start off with: where is the best place to buy one from?

If your tree has been locally grown then it’s nice to know you’re helping out the economy of the local community. This will also mean it hasn’t been transported from a far, therefore cutting back on CO2 emissions. With large, commercial Christmas tree farms it’s likely that fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides have been sprayed on the tree for most of its life. Whilst unlike food, we obviously aren’t ingesting these chemicals and there is little evidence to say these are dangerous for us if they’re just residing in our Christmas tree, it’s still something to think about. The Soil Association are the gurus when it comes to organic goodness. Check out their website to get pointers on where to get an organic Christmas tree if this is something you’re concerned about.

Fake Fir

Convenient? Yes. You don’t have to go tying a Christmas tree to your roof, shoving it in your boot or paying a hefty fee for delivery. All you have to do is grab it from the attic. Invest in a good artificial tree and it could literally last years. Artificial trees can be easily customised; you can organise the branches and choose the exact colour you want without worrying about it turning brown before the big day. Plus, no mess! No pines falling all over you carpet and getting stuck to your socks… bonus! However, many artificial trees tend to be mass produced in China meaning we are adding to CO2 emissions because of air transportation. Not only that but they are of course made of plastic, a wasteful industrial process that's not only polluting to our environment but if you ever want to change up your tree then it will linger in our environment in land fill for centuries. 

What’s the verdict?

Across the pond, The American Christmas Tree Association [2] (yes, this is a real thing. How cool?!) conducted a very extensive study to get to the bottom of the real vs. artificial debate. Many factors were brought into consideration e.g. the cultivation/manufacturing of the tree, transportation to home, how long it was used for and how it was disposed of (please note that they were all taken to landfill). Results showed that if you have your artificial tree for more than 4.7 years then it has less of an environmental impact when compared to a real tree.

Of course, there are better options when it comes to disposing of your real tree. Since, we buy an estimated 7 million Christmas trees a year in the UK [3], instead of letting it wither in your back garden because you don’t want to send it to landfill, do a little google search for Christmas tree recycling in your local area. A good website to check out is This is a London based company that can pick up your tree straight from your door and will take it away to be recycled.

On the other hand, artificial trees are made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and steel. Does that scream recyclable? Absolutely not. Once people have had enough of them, they end up in landfill. So, all we’re saying is choose wisely!

Stuck on ideas for decorating your Christmas tree this year in a sustainable way?Check out our recent blog post ‘A More Sustainable Christmas’ and get creative!






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