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Christmas tree emission comparison: real vs fake trees

Whether a fake Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree is better for the environment, at least in terms of the emissions created, is a question that is often asked. Perhaps of surprise to some people, real Christmas trees create much less emissions than artificial/fake Christmas trees, which are often made from the plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A fake Christmas tree that is 6.5 feet tall creates the equivalent of approximately 40 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. This is mainly due to the fact that fake Christmas trees are made with plastic, which is produced from crude oil. An artificial Christmas tree would need to be used for at least ten Christmases before its environmental impact becomes lower than having a real Christmas tree.

Meanwhile, a real Christmas tree of the same size creates approximately 16 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions if it has been disposed of in a landfill (and therefore decomposes). If the real tree is burned after its use, then its disposal results in less than four kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the most environmentally friendly way of all to dispose of a natural Christmas tree is through chipping/shredding followed by being used as mulch, or even through being kept growing in a pot. As long as real Christmas trees are grown in a tree farm rather than harvested without being replanted, deforestation need not be a consequence of natural Christmas tree consumption.

Greenhouse gas emissions of real Christmas trees versus artificial Christmas trees (in kilograms)*

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Release date

December 2018



Survey time period

as of 2018

Supplementary notes

*All figures are approximate.
**Negligible or negative emissions.

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