Christmas trees: Natural or artificial?

“Cutting down a tree for just a few weeks of use really isn’t environmentally friendly.”

 “A plastic Christmas tree really isn’t good for the environment.”

Who’s right?

First, the question is more complicated than it seems. When we evaluate the environmental impact of a product, we base our analysis on its lifecycle. We consider several factors, including human health, the effect on ecosystems, climate change and the product’s needs in terms of raw materials.

To help you make a decision, we’ve compiled some relevant data taken from a lifecycle analysis performed by Montreal firm Ellio.1

Human health: Because you are cutting down a tree that produces oxygen, natural trees have a slightly higher impact on human health.

▪ Ecosystem: Once again, because you are cutting down a tree, natural trees are more damaging to the ecosystem for the most part.

▪ Climate change: Because of the synthetic materials used in their fabrication, artificial trees generally have a bigger impact on the environment.

▪ Raw materials: In the fabrication process, artificial trees require more extraction of raw materials, so they are more damaging to the environment.

In conclusion, natural trees are a better choice for the environment compared to artificial trees that have lifespans of less than 20 years. However, using an artificial tree for more than 20 years would make it a more ecologically friendly choice compared to a natural tree.

So no matter which you choose, here’s are the main takeaways:

Artificial trees

  • Must be of good quality in order to ensure they last longer than 20 years
  • Prefer trees made of polyethylene (PE) instead of those made from PVC

Natural trees

  • Buy them no further away than three miles from where you live
  • Give preference to local tree farms
  • Give your trees a second life by disposing of them responsibly—there are several recycling programs available in your city

When choosing a type of tree, be sure to take your personal experience into account. Nothing smells better than a real tree, and it’s a delight to be able to choose your own tree and decorate it year after year.


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