Christmas Tree: Pine or Plastic?

Which Tree Will Impact Your Wallet & the Planet More?

by Andrea Moya– December 3, 2009


You haven’t even finished your Thanksgiving leftovers and already the Christmas Tree vendors are out and about. While nothing says Christmas like the smell of fresh pine, in our budget/eco-conscious world nothing is really that simple anymore, is it? Consider the Great Christmas Tree Debate: What’s more eco-friendly and cost effective- an artificial tree or a real tree? As with most great philosophical questions… it really depends.  There’s no right or wrong answer here, but if you want to be Fab & Fru about it, first weigh the pros and cons of each kind of tree.

Real Trees

kids and treePros: Though deforestation is an obvious concern due to the millions of trees harvested for seasonal use each year, three trees are planted for each one that is cut down- according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Also, Christmas tree ( or rather Fir Tree) farms support entire ecosystems and provide employment for hundreds of people in the US. Real trees can easily be recycled and turned in mulch which is then used to produce more trees. Even if you don’t recycle them, they are 100% biodegradable.  -The average tree costs $10-$15 per foot.

Cons: You are chopping down a live tree for the purpose of short-term decoration.
Real trees are also high-maintenance because they shed needles, cause allergies, need to be watered and then disposed of. Also problematic is the use of pesticides during the harvesting period, which has been known to get into underground water supplies. Transportation is also a consideration since its usually a long drive and a lot of gas from farm to retailer to house every year.

Bottomline: If you want to make sure your tree is creating the smallest carbon footprint possible check out’s Christmas Tree Farm register and see where the closest farm is to you. You’re cutting out a leg of the trip by picking it up yourself directly at the farm. Your tree will be less expensive than your retailer, and you can make a family outing out of it!

Artificial Trees

artificialree-with-presentsPro: While artificial trees may be more expensive than real trees (they start around $60 & go up and up from there), you most likely will have the same tree for many years.  Thus, over time, this is usually the more wallet friendly alternative. Artificial trees are low-maintenance since they don’t shed and don’t need tending to.   Some brands even come with Christmas lights already in place. They don’t cause allergies and you can store them in a box until next year!

Cons: Because most fake trees are manufactured in China, they must travel a long distance from before we bring them home – lots of gas used – not a plus for Mother Earth.  Also, the factory fumes and wastes from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), otherwise known as vinyl, used to make the needles of artificial trees are toxic to the environment, as are the fumes it emits if incinerated. Artificial trees are not biodegradable.

monochromatic+white+treeBottomline: While the convenience and overall cost of an artificial tree will be lower in the long term , the environmental impact is higher at first glance. However, if you keep your tree for twenty years- you may just equalize that environmental impact. and The Christmas Depot offer high quality artificial trees, made in the USA. They’re flameproof and have a 5-year warranty, though most artificial trees we’ve had lasted far longer than that!  If you choose an artificial tree, then make maintenance your mantra! The longer you use your tree,  the more money you will save while making a smaller environmental footprint.

Living Trees

If you don’t want to chop down a tree, but you’d rather have a real one, consider getting a potted Christmas Tree (A dwarf or slow growing Conifer). Some trees can be kept indoors for an extended amount of time, but others will need to be planted in the yard come Spring. These trees are pretty affordable and may be a fun project for the kids!

pottedxmastree11-    Potted Dwarf Conifers: These trees can be kept indoors during the holidays and placed outside during the rest of the year. You can find potted Spruces, Junipers, & Pines at most nurseries.   Most can be kept in their pots year-round but make sure to ask the nursery about any specific care. Dwarfs usually don’t grow taller than 4 ft. and need watering about twice a week. They cost between $29 to $100 plus the pot.

-    Slow Grow Conifers: Most slow growing Conifers can be kept in pots until the Spring, but then it is best to plant them  in the ground.  If you have space in your yard, these trees can be very satisfying to watch grow and will be fun to decorate during holidays to come. These trees cost slightly more than the Dwarfs.  Consult your local nursery for planting and maintenance advice.

Happy Holidays!

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Any Thoughts?