Real or Fake? Which Tree is Best?

Mason Rath, Staff Writer

For many, the holiday season brings up a lot of festivities, activities, and traditions to be carried out. One of the most common is putting up and decorating a Christmas tree. However, in recent years more and more people have been skipping over buying a new tree, instead choosing to pull out a storable, reusable, mess-free fake tree instead. Is this move to fake a matter of laziness, or is there something better about these fake trees that people are drawn to?

For many the switch could have something to do with their problems with real trees. Students list a variety of issues that real trees can bring, including the mess they make, the hassle of disposing of them, the struggle to put them up, and the toxicity for pets. According to Puroclean with real Christmas trees “… you have to water them daily to keep them fresh and increase their resistance to fire. They might harbor mold, fungi, or bugs. They are typically more prone to fires, especially if you don’t keep them hydrated.” With all these cons, you would think it would be a no brainer to go with a fake Christmas tree, but there are many reasons to stick with tradition. While sophomore Kaila Mckinnon puts up a fake tree each year, she wishes she could put up a real tree because she likes the smell and the idea of a tree in the house. In fact, many students that put up a Christmas tree each year cite the smell as one of the main pros of having a real tree. McKinnon is not alone in enjoying the idea of a real tree. Even though freshman Jeremy Luo does not celebrate Christmas or put up a tree, he says that choosing a real tree is “more genuine, because you have to go out and find it.” In these cases, it comes down to a student and their family’s preference on what type of tree they get. A combination of convenience and ease may suggest getting a fake one, but the smell and spirit of a real tree cannot be counted out.

At the end of the day a Christmas tree is a decoration for your house, and it is important to consider which type will look the best. Senior Callahan Marshall thinks that “far away [fake Christmas trees] look better because they are designed to look good and be symmetrical, but up close I think real trees are better.” Like Marshall says, a real tree will never be crafted down to every needle specifically to look nice. After all, they are just trees. A fake tree on the other hand is specifically made to look nice and is infinitely customizable. You can get a standard green tree, a blue tree with fake snow on its branches, or even a hot pink tree covered in glitter. Unfortunately, like Marshall says, fake trees look less nice up close, likely because they appear less alive and full. Junior Veronica Lepekhina mentions that with Christmas trees, “you can definitely tell when they are fake,” adding to this effect Callahan refers to. It is also worth mentioning that a fake tree’s branches can be better designed for the hanging of ornaments, one of the most important parts in making a tree look nice.

However, there is more to the equation when you consider not only what kind of tree you like the most, but also what decision is best for the environment. Christmas tree farming is a huge business during the holidays, and naturally, artificial trees are as well. The straight numbers lean in favor of real trees with the study PopSci conducted that “compared the impacts of one year of an artificial tree with a single live Christmas tree. The former emitted 8 kg of CO2—the equivalent of driving a car 200 miles. The latter emitted 3.1 kg of CO2—the equivalent of 77 miles.” However, there are also other things to consider. Christmas tree farms can be far away from where people live, with a round trip racking up mileage and therefore CO2 emissions. Many Christmas tree farmers also have to use pesticides, which can have negative effects on surrounding plants and animals. This is due to the flea ridden nature of many Christmas trees. With such a big market, The Guardian says that “at any one time in the UK there are about 100 million trees growing with all the benefits that trees give to the environment. These trees would not be growing if it weren’t for the Christmas tree market.” They also helps absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Many make the argument that, since they can keep their fake tree for a longer time, it is better for the environment, considering that you have to buy a new real tree every year. This argument has merit in terms of straight numbers, but then comes the struggle of disposing the tree. While you may reduce the CO2 emissions of your Christmas with a reused fake tree in production, when it comes time to get rid of the tree the only option is to put it in the landfill, where the PVC these trees are made of will take over 500 years to decompose. A real tree on the other hand can be mulched and turned into compost, or put in a woodchipper and used for playgrounds, parks, and more. Unfortunately, many real trees are not recycled like this, however, and are instead thrown into landfills or even burned, sending all the CO2 right back into the atmosphere. So, when it comes to being environmentally friendly, it comes down to how you can dispose of your real trees. If your neighborhood has a collection service for your trees where they are mulched or chipped, that is your best bet. If you are not able to compost and recycle your trees like this, then it is probably better to get a fake Christmas tree that you keep a number of years. NBC says, “A fake Christmas tree will last about a decade on average,” meaning that if you take care of your tree, you can cut your environmental footprint down by a lot.

At the end of the day, a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and even though you might picture your ideal Christmas with a real tree in your head, the world is moving towards fake ones. The decision is up to you, and it might not even be one you can make in the future, so the opportunity to cut down a real tree should be cherished now.