Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artifical Trees

The What is Greener discussion of Fresh Cut Christmas Trees versus Artificial Trees has seemed to have stabilized.  In my mind, its a wash.  A trade-off of pros and cons to the environment appear to be equal.

I prefer to walk my carbon footprint with Santas  – used year after year, no lighting required (something both tree types use), and no live option, so it can’t be debated.  The only ones in the Christian world who don’t like Santas are the gnomes.  They’ll get over it..

You can decide.  I wouldn’t bother with a tree at all, but my kids are keen on it and I happen to like those glitzy globs  they call ornaments; ornaments have to be hung somewhere.

There are three main considerations and the pros and cons to go with each: CHEMICAL – DISPOSAL – FUEL USE.


REAL Trees – There may be pesticides on the tree.  Bringing the tree  into the house, bringing pesticides and all.

ARTIFICAL Trees – PVC Plastic (Polyvinyl chloride) and the possible threat of lead from needles.


REAL Trees – Fuel is used to transport trees and driving to purchase.

ARTIFICAL Trees  – As the result of manufacturing and delivery.


REAL Trees- Easy to compost or to use elsewhere in the garden such as hides for wildlife and mulch.

ARTIFICIAL Trees – Will never decompose.  If you go the route of an artifical tree, plan to hold on to it as long as possible.  That will be the best way to Lesson Your Footprint.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum



  1. I’ve opted for a small, artificial tabletop tree because I’m in an apartment. But have you heard the debate now between live cut Christmas trees and live potted RENTED Christmas trees? Guy in LA is renting big potted trees; delivers them and picks them up after a few weeks, tends to them in a nursery lot and re-rents the same ones the next year. Word is people ask for the same tree they had the previous year and often name them (“Louise is looking so lovely this year!”). Wonder about pros and cons here?

    • I had heard of that and wondered what success they were having. I’ll have to give that one some thought. My immediate thought is that the fuel use would be double because you have drop off and delivery; more actually b/c there is an increase in weight to transport What if poor Louise dies during the year, what will I tell the kids? ;~}

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Helen Yoest, Jenny Peterson. Jenny Peterson said: RT @HelenYoest: I believe the Christmas tree debate (artifical vs real) has subsided. What do you think? […]

  3. […] here:  Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artifical Trees « Gardening With … By admin | category: garden tree, tree | tags: decorating, from-the-kitchen, […]

  4. kk said

    A few more:
    Real trees are grown in North Carolina; Made in U.S.A
    Artifical trees are mfg. in China.

  5. Kathy Vilim said

    I love my real live pine tree in a Pot! This is his 3rd Xmas. He is 3ft tall & would like to go in the ground this Earth Day. I love decorating him.. since he is Alive, the ornaments tend to shift a bit from day to day!

    • I like this Kathy! So do you nurse him during the year still in a container? I like the touch of putting him in the ground this Earth Day. Will you begin again with a new starter tree in 2010?

      Each year, I trade out my tropical potted palms with Leyland Cypress for a winter scene. I no longer have use for them and have tried to summer them over in pots, but fail to give them what they need. This year, I will donate them to the Raleigh Garden Club to sell in their fundraiser. People could also do this with their real potted Christmas trees.

      • Kathy Vilim said

        I have been doing this for years now and have 3 Xmas trees planted in the yard. In 2010, I will get another one. I leave them in pots all year on my patio. After abo 1-1/2yrs, they need to be repotted to a bigger pot.

        In So Cal, the Forestry Dept offers folks a chance to bring their potted trees to the woods, to regrow burnt fire areas! Kids can name their tree and come back to visit whenever they want. Perfect if you don’t have a big backyard.

  6. Ellen said

    hi Helen – this is a good resource for weighing both options! In this area, Christmas tree farms get substantial tax breaks in exchange for keeping old farms and open spaces from being developed for homes and roads…which is a good thing in the congested northeast where we need all the natural areas we can keep! Also, x-mas tree farms provide early successional habitat which is valuable habitat for many birds that are declining due to the loss of grassy farmlands…

    So my choice is to buy “real”, use the tree under my bird feeders after the holidays for safe bird cover,and then it gets slowly composted in our brush heap….

    • Good information about the farmers getting tax breaks. I agree. When I put up a live tree, it does triple duty. First for Christmas, second for cover for birds and then finally into the wildlife brush pile. H.

  7. GardenHoe said

    This is taken from the web site of a local Christmas tree grower at They have been in business since 1982 and know a thing or two about trees.

    “A benefit to the atmosphere, real Christmas trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases, emitting fresh oxygen. This helps prevent the earth-warming “greenhouse effect”.

    One acre of Christmas trees produces the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. With approximately one million acres producing Christmas trees in the United States, that translates into oxygen for 18 million people every day. For every real Christmas tree harvested, three seedlings are planted in it’s place.

    Real Christmas trees are an all-American, recyclable resource. Artificial trees, most of which are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong, consist mainly of non-biodegradable plastics and metals. When disposed of, the artificial trees will never deteriorate.”

  8. Les said

    The information packet that comes with my NC grown Christmas tree order, includes the same verbage as what Gardenhoe wrote. It is a little heavy handed, but I am still solidly in the cut real tree camp. I don’t use artificial flowers and I don’t like fake trees.

    Seems you have opened a stocking full of worms.

    Merry merry!


  9. Janet said

    Good morning Helen. If you asked me a few years ago I was firmly in the real tree camp…..and in my heart I love a fresh tree. HOWEVER…. I love the artificial one for a couple reasons….one- I can have my tree up from the beginning of December through late January (one year it was Valentine’s Day!!) and two- I hate stringing lights, mine is already strung. I will keep this one for a long time….it is compact in spread but tall enough to fill the ceiling height. Works for me.

  10. Loved this post. I’m tired of the debate about all of it. Most gardeners especially are doing the best they can to help the environment. Ours is artificial because I can’t do the mold on the real, cut trees. I use a candle to evoke the scent of real, but then I was informed yesterday, that I’m burning petroleum. It’s enough to make a girl want to cry, and there’s no crying at Christmas. LOL!

    Santas are a great option. I love Santas, Father Christmas, Pere Noel and St. Nicholas.

    Merry Christmas my friend.~~Dee

  11. Hey Dee, Glad you brought up the mold/allergy factor. I was going to include it, but left it out out to the topic being specific to carbon footprint. There are many folks like you that are allergic to Christmas trees and artifical is the only option.

    Merry Christmas to you too my friend! H.

  12. Carole said

    We’ve been unable to have any tree at all for several years now due to two cats who would destroy it and my ornaments. But what I love doing is going to a local tree farm and walking around till I have found the absolute perfect tree which we then cut down ourselves and haul home. Less carbon footprint because it’s not traveling far. After the holiday the tree gets a home in the garden to give some cover for the birds and then goes on the brush pile. Like Ellen says, the birds get some benefit, too.

    Great article and food for thought. Happy Holidays to all!

  13. Carole, that’s just cuz we are like minded thinkers! H.

  14. Gail said

    We have both! The Palm Tree and a tree from NC and love the fragrance it brings to the house…Do you remember how we used to feel when the grocery sacker asked us if we wanted paper or plastic? gail

  15. We alternate; it’s artificial this year, we’ve been using the same one for 17 years. And when we use real trees, they’re re-used out in the landscape as you brought up in your most recent post.

  16. […] Fresh Cut Christmas Trees Versus Artificial Trees […]

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: