In mid-December, one natural question arises: is it better to buy a real tree or a fake one? Especially if it's not about money, but also about the desire to think of the holiday more consciously and take care of nature. On the one hand, a real tree implies that the tree dies for the sake of several days of the holiday. On the other hand, the production of fake trees made from plastic and metal also does not help the environment either. We decided to deal with this debate once and for all.

What’s wrong with artificial trees?

It seems the choice is obvious: one should buy a plastic Christmas tree and thus save a living tree. But the fact that the tree has not died for celebration does not mean that you are not harming nature. Artificial trees can harm nature at different stages: during production, transportation, and disposal.

All our activities leave a carbon footprint. In other words, this is the amount of carbon dioxide that gets into the atmosphere because of us. Most often, an artificial tree is a structure made of plastic and metal. A significant part of its carbon footprint – about two-thirds – is oil, which is used in its production. Another quarter of the total footprint is added by emissions from companies making Christmas trees.

The Carbon Trust company, which helps business owners make it more environmentally friendly, estimates that the carbon footprint of a two-meter artificial tree is about forty kilograms of carbon dioxide. In the case of a live Christmas tree that is thrown into a landfill, this figure is much lower – sixteen kilograms of carbon dioxide. To equalize the effect of using an artificial tree with the impact of a felled living tree on the environment, an artificial one needs to be used for about ten years.

Is it environmentally friendly to cut trees?

Real trees bought before the New Year or Christmas do not necessarily damage the forest if they are grown on special plantations. Greenpeace assures that the money from the sale of Christmas trees purchased from the forestry goes to reforestation, which means it benefits nature. The good news is that a real tree's carbon footprint can be reduced by burning or chipping the tree and spreading it around the garden.

Choosing a real tree alone will not radically change the overall ecological situation. There are many other unsustainable aspects of Christmas and New Year: gift wrapping paper, unnecessary impulse purchases, groceries that are thrown away. So if you use your car a lot or mindlessly use plastic straws and bags, a real Christmas tree is unlikely to play such a significant role in preserving nature.