Is a Plastic Tree More Sustainable?

A natural christmas tree and a fake christmas tree made with plastic.
Having a real Christmas tree at home at Christmas originates back hundreds of years to Europe. With the rising eco-friendly consciousness in decades, questions have arisen about whether this tradition is sustainable. Generally, the artificial tree is made from PVC, a kind of plastic that creates emissions while manufactured and it is not biodegradable. In addition, cardboard is necessarily required for packaging trees, and more carbon emissions are generated during the delivery.

According to the Carbon Trust, artificial trees have a higher carbon footprint. It estimates a two-meter-tall artificial tree produces about 40kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, while a similar-sized real no-root Christmas tree creates 3.5kg CO2e – more than 10 times less. But there’s a catch. You must dispose of the real tree by burning it on a bonfire or by shredding and spreading it over the garden. If the real tree ends up in a landfill, its carbon footprint jumps to 16kg CO2e as it will decompose anaerobically and produce methane gas, which is around 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Somehow, there are some advantages of artificial trees. For instance, they are usually cheaper and are flame-retardant, which is important for trees used in public places. Here is a fun fact, if you have an artificial tree and reuse it for at least 10 Christmases, then the carbon footprint over its lifetime will likely be lower than that of a real tree! We cannot say which kind of Christmas tree is better for our environment because there are many tiny factors we must consider.
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