Your artificial Christmas tree might be worse for the planet than a real one

Think you’re doing a great thing by having an artificial tree in your house instead of a real one? Think again. While there are so many benefits to having an artificial tree (like no stray pine needles you’ll be stepping on in March) it turns out that having an artificial Christmas tree may be worse for the environment.

The website PopSugar reported that your artificial Christmas tree took about eight times more energy to make, based on the fact that most of them are created overseas, and they’re usually made with PVC, which is a commonly used synthetic plastic. Fake trees may also be manufactured with lead, and they don’t biodegrade, meaning that if yours breaks (which happens) or just needs to be upgraded, it’ll take up some space. Real trees can be composted.

Of course, not all artificial Christmas trees contain PVC or other chemicals, so it’s something you’ll want to be aware of if you’re looking to buy one. And by trying to find one made locally, it’ll be better for the environment. Still, there are plenty of benefits of buying a real tree in case you’re on the fence.

For one, unless you’ve got a family member that likes to pull a Clark Griswold and adventure out into the woods, most trees are planted for the sole purpose of becoming future Christmas trees. That’s why Christmas tree farms exist. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for that purpose,” botanist and professor Clint Springer said to The New York Times.

During their off-season, when they’re growing, they can serve as a wonderful habitat for animals. (Your fake tree, on the other hand, will probably remain in a box in your basement.)

Don’t forget that after they’ve been decorated, you may be able to turn your tree into mulch that’ll benefit your spring garden — so your real tree may be able to serve you for two seasons. Some communities offer up mulching services, while others are all about finding other ways to recycle your tree, so you’ll want to look at what your neighborhood offers to get the most use out of what’s arguably the highlight of your holiday decor.

No matter what, there’s no right or wrong way to go when you celebrate the holiday. Just know that if you’re opting for an artificial Christmas tree to help save the environment, your plan is noble — yet, not the most beneficial.

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