While the spirit of Christmas is gift-giving, others attribute it to materialism. It does feel a little lacking if we don’t have a Christmas tree around, whether at home or in a business establishment. With the growing concern for plastic wastes, which is better for the environment: real Christmas trees or fake/artificial ones?
In this article, we’ll try to break down all kinds of Christmas trees and whether or not they have certain environmental concerns. This will help you know which holiday tree is more suitable for you and Mother Earth.
Is there an Eco-Friendly Artificial Christmas Tree?
Unfortunately, most artificial Christmas trees aren’t eco-friendly when you inspect their materials. They are only sustainable and economical because you can reuse them every year. However, once they are worn out and damaged, they will end up in a dumpster – and they will become plastic pollution to the environment.
Even though a fake Christmas tree is usually cheaper than getting a regular tree, the problem lies with the plastic pollution problem when the tree gets destroyed and is deemed no longer usable.
With that said, here are the reasons why you should switch to an eco-friendly Christmas tree, such as having a living tree in your backyard:
1. Less plastic waste in landfills
Christmas trees that don’t have any plastic parts will be safer for landfills because they are mostly biodegradable. Plastic is harmful to the environment because it doesn’t melt down into the ground, unlike organic or biodegradable matter.
2. You save trees from being cut down
When you choose living trees over buying a tree for Christmas, you don’t have to deal with forests being cut down. This also causes the animals to have their home for the taking. Having trees is important because, without them, we are more prone to the following:
- Climate change
- Increased flooding
- Lack of fresh air
- Soil erosion
- Displacement of animals and people
- Greenhouse effect
Reusable Christmas Tree: Good or Bad?
Unfortunately, reusable Christmas trees aren’t very beneficial to the environment. That’s because producing PVC will leak out the following chemicals and substances into the environment, which are mostly toxic. Let’s have a look at each of them:
Dioxin is a highly fatal chemical that is found in most PVC manufacturing schemes. Many studies show that they are carcinogenic and are also detrimental to fertility and hormones. Aside from that, people will also be more susceptible to skin diseases, diabetes, and the like. Chloracne, a rare skin disease, may also occur with exposure to dioxin.
Unfortunately, dioxin can stay in the wild for 9 to 15 years so it is a problem that we all face. Aside from that, small amounts of dioxin could get into your animal livestock, such as chicken and cows. Therefore, you might find traces of dioxin from milk, eggs, grocery meat, dairy products, and the like. Aquatic resources such as fish might also have such traces.
Certain studies have been made that link heart problems with prolonged exposure to dioxin. Therefore, if you have a history of cardiovascular diseases, ditching the PVC trees would be a better idea for you.
Chlorine is often found in swimming pools but did you know that you’ll also find it in manufacturing Christmas trees made of PVC? When you melt down chlorine, it goes into the environment and does all sorts of harm to living creatures.
For instance, chlorine is toxic to fish because it damages their gills, which is their only way of breathing. Thus, we will have more fish kills in the future if we keep throwing away PVC into the wild. Aside from that, chlorine is also detrimental to fish behavior and their reproductive system.
Even small amounts of chlorine could also affect – smaller life forms in the ocean, such as plankton, which are killed by these amounts. This means that the fish will starve due to the endangerment of these life forms.
Moreover, when chlorine is combined with other harsh chemicals, such as dioxin (mentioned above), it will cause water pollution. This pollution will kill animals (not just fish), such as those that drink from rivers and streams. It will also affect animals that consume the affected fish. Then, it will transfer into humans once we consume these animals.
This chemical is used for creating PVC through being combined with VCM or vinyl chloride monomer. Ethylene dichloride, once vaporized, will have a plethora of negative effects on the human body.
For instance, it is known to be linked to heart problems such as cardiac arrhythmia and it could also damage the nervous system. Other health problems it could cause include liver and kidney damage.
Likewise, this harsh chemical will also make you susceptible to respiratory problems. Inhaling the vapor of ethylene dichloride can make you feel dizzy and you might even throw up as a side effect or symptom.
Known to be toxic to human organs, vinyl chloride will end up in your landfill once you throw away your old Christmas tree. It also has a lot of carbon emissions in the factory. Moreover, it is found to be linked to certain health issues, such as various kinds of cancer.
Hydrogen Chloride Gas
Additionally, PVC has been known to cause harm during accidental building fires due to releasing toxic chemicals. These gases, including hydrogen chloride gas, are fatal to humans when inhaled in large amounts.
Recycled Fake Christmas Tree
You don’t necessarily have to buy a tree every year – you can make your own Christmas tree at home as a DIY project. Here are some materials that you can use to create a recycled fake Christmas tree:
- Plastic bottles (e.g. from drinks)
- Unused glass bottles
- Reclaimed wood
- Old magazines
- Used paper
- Cardboard boxes
- Reclaimed mechanical parts (e.g. bike, trucks, cars)
- Unused or recycled fabrics
- Tin and aluminum cans
- Coat hangers
- Unused metal scrap
Are Christmas Trees Bad For The Environment
It depends on the Christmas tree that you get. We think that PVC or plastic trees are bad because even though they are reusable, once you throw them out in the dumpster, they will cause plastic pollution.
In the same way, if you buy a real tree, it will only fuel an industry of cutting down trees, which leads to deforestation. So what exactly is the best way?
To play it safe for the environment, we think that having a live, planted tree in your backyard is still the most eco-friendly option. Although you need a lot of effort to make it possible, it’s the best way to give back to the environment.
Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree Statistics
Are you interested in numbers? Here’s what you need to know about real vs. artificial trees to help you decide which one to get.
Real Christmas Trees
- A growing farming industry. The NCTA has over 100,000 employees from up to 15,000 farms all over the 50 states of the U.S., which means you’re patronizing home.
- Real trees can cause allergies to act up. According to a 2011 study, up to 5,000 mold spores per cubic meter were found when a real tree was set up inside an apartment.
- Fire control problems. Since real trees are, well, made of wood, they’re likely to cause a fire. The NFPA statistics reported 160 home fires a year – all of which have something to do with a Christmas tree.
Artificial Christmas Trees
- Fake trees contain lead. According to a 2004 study, about 50 million artificial trees were found to contain lead, which is harmful to children. And there goes our saying that “Christmas is for the children”.
- Carbon emission problems. When it comes to fake Christmas trees, we have a problem with carbon emissions. About 18 pounds of greenhouse gases were found on a 6.5-foot Christmas tree.
Are Artificial Christmas Trees Recyclable?
Generally, yes, fake trees are recyclable, but let’s have a look at the big picture.
Even though some manufacturers do say that artificial trees are better because they can be recycled, in the long run, if they are no longer recyclable due to being damaged, they will end up filling up a landfill. That’s because most of these Christmas trees are made of PVC material.
Aside from that, manufacturing these artificial Christmas trees will take its toll on the environment when it comes to carbon footprint. PVC comes from fossil fuels, which is not a sustainable source in itself. Burning these fossil fuels and also dumping PVC into the garbage bin will cause problems to the environment in the long run.
Which is eco-friendlier: real or fake Christmas tree?
To wrap up our article, we think that planting your own live Christmas tree at home is the best way. It will take 4 to 15 years to grow a tree at home, but it will be rewarding for the environment. You have no plastic waste to throw into the sea and you’ll save the forests from being massively cut down.