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Christmas trees: is artificial better than real?

Updated on September 19, 2012

Which Christmas tree is better: artificial or real?

There are benefits to both.

Artificial Christmas trees

For some, fake Christmas trees are the only option. Many apartment buildings, for instance, ban real trees.

Most artificial trees sold today are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). An artificial tree will last for years if properly stored. Although made of plastic, not all trees are recyclable. The majority of artificial Christmas trees on the market are imported from China; there have been recent concerns about the amount of lead in the trees. Lead is used as a PVC stabilizer. Studies have shown that a significant amount of lead dust settles beneath the tree, especially as the tree ages.

While 85% of trees are made in China, it is easy to find lead-free artificial trees made in the USA. American made trees tend to be manufactured with barium instead of lead. Ask your salesperson and read labels to find out which materials were used to make the tree. The average life span of an artificial Christmas tree is 7-8 years.

Pre-lit artificial trees are nice if you don’t mind the having the same color scheme each year. You avoid the hassle of untangling lines of twisted lights, but you’re stuck with the same clear or colored lights from year to year. Changing a burned out bulb on a pre-lit tree can be a hassle.

Save on your holiday electric bill

LED, or fiber-optic, trees are a popular choice. A fiber optic Christmas tree uses fine strands of glass or plastic with reflective coating to channel LED light. The effects are stunning. Both clear and colored lights are available. In addition to beautiful lighting effects, fiber-optic Christmas trees use 1/10 the electricity of a standard light bulb.

You can find a variety of fir and pine look-a-likes. Whether your space is large or small, there is an artificial tree made to fit. Trees range from three feet to twenty or more feet, and the diameters vary from wide to skinny.

There is also a growing market for outdoor artificial Christmas trees.

Storing and cleaning your Christmas tree

To store your tree, place it in a tree storage bag or in its original carton. To increase the life span of your artificial tree, store it in a cool and dry place. A damp basement or hot attic will age the plastic over time. If your tree is flocked, these conditions are particularly bad.

If you unpack your tree to find it covered with dust or dirt, don’t worry. You can clean the tree by simply blowing away dust with a hairdryer set on cool. Then, wipe down the tree with a damp cloth. It is best to use plain lukewarm water to wipe down the needles.

Real Christmas trees: the natural choice

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold every year in the U.S. The smell of a fresh cut pine at Christmastime can’t be beat, especially when it’s mingled with the scent of your fresh baked gingerbread.

Feeling guilty about the environmental impact of using a real Christmas tree instead of artificial? Don’t! Natural Christmas trees are overwhelmingly preferred by environmentalists.

When you buy a natural, real Christmas tree, you are not killing an old-growth pine. Real Christmas trees are farmed. That’s right: Christmas trees are a crop.

Real Christmas trees are better for the environment

Artificial trees are made from petroleum-based (crude oil) plastic. Tree farms, on the other hand, have a positive effect on our environment. As the trees grow, they produce oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide. They are “carbon sinks”, filtering pollution from the air.

Christmas tree farms are often located in areas that are not fit for growing other crops to maximize land use. The trees serve as soil stabilizers, preventing erosion. They also provide a great environment for wildlife.

For an even bigger punch, buy an organically-grown tree. Organic tree farms do not use pesticides. As the demand for organic tree farms grows, their numbers are increasing nationwide. You may very well have one in your local area.

Still not comfortable with a real Christmas tree? No problem. Instead of buying a cut tree, buy a live tree that can be replanted in your own back yard.

Consider this too: artificial trees will remain in landfills for hundreds of years after they are discarded. Real Christmas trees are biodegradable. Keep in mind that both real trees and some types of fake trees can be recycled. Check your community to see if there are any recycling programs. Real trees are often mulched, or placed in wildlife habitats where they provide shelter for animals while they decompose into compost.

Christmas tree farms are replenished constantly. For each tree harvested, 2-3 new seedlings are planted.

Even more good news about real Christmas trees

According to the Smithsonian, tree farms provide more than 100,000 American jobs, including growers and sellers. Local economies benefit from the natural Christmas tree industry. You can find Christmas tree farms in all 50 states and Canada.

Care for your tree

Whether you choose artificial or a real, there are several things you can do to maximize your tree:

  • Keep it cool. Warm temperatures will affect both types of tree.
  • Limit lighting time. Except for LED, most lights create enough heat to damage needles if left lit for extended periods of time.
  • Don’t leave a lit tree unattended. Contrary to general belief, artificial trees are flammable.
  • Water frequently. Your natural tree needs lots of water. Watering extends the life of the tree to as much as five weeks and prevents needle drop.

Enjoy your holiday season!


Submit a Comment
  • easylearningweb profile image

    Amelia Griggs 

    8 years ago from U.S.

    Cool hub...and good tips. We store our artificial tree in the same large box each year. The one we have is in 3 pieces, which beats the older ones where you had to insert each branch one by one. I remember there were color-coded branches on the old ones.

    I agree that using artificial ones will save on killing more real trees, but then I know some enjoy buying a real one each year for family tradition.

    Happy Holidays,


  • profile image

    ofer el- Hashahar 

    8 years ago

    New Solution that must be considered before buying a Christmas tree. Well If you are like me, love the real tree but do not like to through it away and buy a new one every year. There is a green solution the real tree for life- It is a beautiful christmas tree that grow as an indoor plant. So You will enjoy one of the most beautiful indoor plants all year around, It can go out in the summer. so you will also get some peaceful plant that reduce stress and add lots to the beauty of your house- After indoor plant over 6ft still hard to get in the UK. So If you think that it is to expensive for you you must be surprised, delivered to your house at amazing promotional price, as I really want to inter-duce green ideas to the uk.

    I am not one of the mads on green, but I love to promote anything that is real green idea and actually does not cost more than non green.

    My name is Ofer , I moved to the UK 3 years ago with my wife (english) and my daughters from israel- After I nearly lost most of what we had- I thought if there is something I should do is to help by promoting and supplying green solutions that really make life easier.

    so if you think of a tree visit tree - it is special with huge promotion discount.

  • gr82bme profile image


    8 years ago from USA

    I keep telling my kids I am going fake. They get very upset. Just stick a bag over the tree and hide in the closet

  • jebraina profile image


    8 years ago

    Nice hub, I made a similar one

  • wyanjen profile imageAUTHOR

    Jen King 

    9 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Sometimes a real tree is just not practical.

    There are better options for fake trees, though - for instance, one that is lead-free.


  • susanlang profile image


    9 years ago

    Jen hi. Always enjoyed putting up the real deal myself. However, I understand the need for the no fuss fake tree as well. When it comes right down to it it's not the type of tree you have but rather, how you see it. Loved the charlie brown you tube, nice touch.

  • wyanjen profile imageAUTHOR

    Jen King 

    9 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Thanks chilario

    Each has its own advantage, and expense is certainly a factor.

    Thanks for cruising through - I was surprised to see a view all the way into February :)

  • chilario1979 profile image


    9 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

    for me artificial ones are more economical hence it is more advantageous...

    nice hub!

  • wyanjen profile imageAUTHOR

    Jen King 

    9 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Hello Disturbia.

    It's not goofy at all! The "goofiest" fun is the best. :-)

    Have a wonderful holiday with your family.

  • Disturbia profile image


    9 years ago

    I've had both real and artifical trees and each has it's pros and cons. My husband is a "real tree" man and doesn't believe in fake trees, so we have a new tradition that started four years ago when we got married. We all go out to the tree farm the day after Thanksgiving, together as a family. It's very important to my youngest daughter who has some emotional issues that we do certain things "as a family." She picks out the tree, husband chops it down, oldest daughter and mom get to decorate it, then youngest puts on the tree top, and everybody makes a big fuss. I know it's kind of goofy, but we love it and it's something we all look forward to. This year we included my little grandson who is two and let him put on the tree top, assisted by his auntie, of course.

  • wyanjen profile imageAUTHOR

    Jen King 

    9 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Thanks pylos.

    It was a fun topic for me.

  • pylos26 profile image


    9 years ago from America have done a terrific job with this hub...I'm very impressed. Pylos

  • wyanjen profile imageAUTHOR

    Jen King 

    9 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Thank you :-)

    I'm glad you stopped by.


  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 

    9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    Thanks for sharing all that information. great ideas.


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