Artificial vs. Natural Christmas Trees: Not Much Difference, Environmentally

If you’re an environmentally-conscious Christmas celebrator, this is the time of year when the question of the sustainability of the holiday season comes up. And for the centerpiece of the holiday–the Christmas tree–is it more environmentally-friendly to buy a real or an artificial one?

According to StateImpact Texas (a project of NPR and several Texas public radio stations), the difference is pretty negligible, but natural Christmas trees hold a slight edge.

The study unpacked several consumer myths about holiday trees. The reality is that cutting down or buying a Christmas tree has less of an environmental impact than the daily impact of someone living for one day in the United States.

Also, a popular argument against artificial trees has been found false. Some have argued in the past that artificial trees have a bigger impact if they are made in China and shipped into the United States.

“The reality is that the long distance transport from China is pretty efficient,” says Laura Morrison, a Senior Consultant at PE International. She worked on the study and says that consumers should be more concerned about how far they drive personally to purchase their tree. Even if the tree has been shipped in from another state, it’s the personal drive home that significantly increases the carbon output.

“At the end of the day, truck transport is still much more efficient than driving your car,” Morrison says.

And no matter the kind of tree, there are significant energy savings associated with using LED lights. This website has a breakdown of LED lights vs. regular incandescent bulbs…and it estimates nearly $90 a month in savings when LED lights are used.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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