Artificial trees are made from a kind of plastic called polyvinyl chloride, which is derived from petroleum and can contain lead or other harmful toxins. Also, about 80% of fake trees are manufactured in China, where most electricity is generated by burning coal—one of the dirtiest fuel sources. After the trees are made, they must also be shipped across the ocean, usually in diesel-fuel powered ships, resulting in even more greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The average family keeps a fake tree for about five to six years, and then it goes to the landfill, where it just sits because it doesn’t biodegrade. In contrast, real trees are completely recyclable, and they are grown in the United States on thousands of farms that employ an estimated 100,000 people.
Here’s another interesting fact—for every real Christmas tree that is sold, about nine more are left to mature and grow to the desired heights on the farms. There are about 12,000 tree farms in the U.S. that are growing about 400 million trees right now. So there are actually more Christmas trees than there are people living in the U.S.! As the trees are maturing, they will recycle the air, purify groundwater, stabilize the soil and provide homes for birds, mammals, and insects. After the Christmas season is done, the trees can be recycled and used as mulch. Other uses for the recycles trees include being used as fish habitats, heron nesting grounds, used to prevent beach erosion, and to preserve freshwater marshes.
Real or fake—next year as the time approaches to get the artificial tree out again—maybe a trip to a tree farm may be in order!