I love real Christmas trees; it just doesn’t seem like Christmas without one. Though it bothers me to think about cutting down a new tree every year, a Life Cycle Assessment from Ellipsos, a sustainable development strategy firm, makes me feel better about my choice—as long as I recycle my tree when it’s time to undeck the halls.
Natural Christmas trees have a lighter carbon footprint than artificial Christmas trees. Photo By Rob Cardillo.
Natural trees generate 3.1 kg of greenhouse gases per year while artificial trees produce 8.1 kg per year. For natural Christmas trees, the main ecological impact stems from transportation to and from the tree farm; for artificial trees, the production stage accounts for 93 percent of the impact measured by Ellipsos: manufacturing (85 percent) and transport from China (8 percent).
Ellipsos researchers considered natural and artificial trees’ environmental impacts, from the extraction of raw materials, the manufacturing process, transport and distribution, use, reuse, recycling and disposal. Even though most people reuse an artificial tree for up to six years on average, artificial trees would need to be kept for at least 20 years to compete with natural trees.
Having a natural tree does have an impact. The tree requires water to stay green while it’s in your home, and disposal matters. Some great earth-friendly options include:
• Chop it down and use it for firewood.
• Take it to a recycling center to be turned into mulch or a wildlife habitat
• Send it to help rebuild the Louisiana Coastline.
This year, Boy Scouts troops across the country will collect trees from your curb and take them to a recycler for you. Consider giving back to the community and saving some personal time; the money you donate to the troop covers gas costs and supports Boy Scout programs.