Problems stemming from artificial Christmas trees

By Harsha Bellamkonda

Thanksgiving break has just ended and that just means Christmas is around the corner. Although we’re fresh off one break, most of us can’t stop thinking about the next one.

For many people, regardless of religious practices, celebrating the holidays with a Christmas tree is a staple. However, with Christmas comes the annual dilemma of buying a real tree or an artificial tree.

Although many college students don’t seem to buy Christmas trees for their apartments or dorms, the occasional mini-tree can still be seen in many student’s abodes. This debate impacts us more than one might think.

And while the argument may seem to have many pros and cons, buying a real tree is the superior choice chiefly due to one critical factor: Real trees are recyclable.

In fact, about 93 percent of the 33 million real Christmas trees sold in North America each year are recycled through more than 4000 available recycling programs. (

Despite this, more than 80 percent of American households with Christmas trees are celebrating with an artificial Christmas tree. ( Pages/debunking_the_real_vs_artificial_christmas_tree_myths) However, when the trees have worn down and get thrown away, their impact will continue, as artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. They’ll endure in landfills for centuries.

It’s understandable why many people’s first instinct would be to buy an artificial tree. Most people believe it benefits the environment because these trees are reusable. Their logic is understandable, but fallible. Artificial trees simply aren’t without their strengths.

Purchasing an artificial tree is the more economical choice because real Christmas trees have to be bought every year, while an artificial tree is a one-time purchase. Artificial trees are easier to maintain as well as they don’t need watering or shed pine needles. Transportation is also extra convenient.

However, despite all these pros, artificial trees hurt more than they help.

Artificial trees are usually manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride, a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. In addition, many older varieties may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process. (

Annually, real Christmas trees are more frequently bought, but that is simply because a new tree gets purchased every year. The artificial trees tend to be more ubiquitous even though they are purchased less. This apparent widespread use of artificial trees greatly augments the problem of their harmful environmental impact.

Real Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping, gardening or for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways. They are also used for beachfront erosion prevention and lake and river shoreline stabilization. (

Real trees are also easy to find locally as virtually all of them are grown on plantations. Buying real trees supports small, local farmers. (

The fresh smell of an authentic Christmas tree also gives real trees a major edge over artificial ones. It’s hard not to love the smell of pine in your home, which just makes the holidays seem even more authentic and natural.

The only problem with real trees stems from the fact that they have pest problems, and therefore are grown with pesticides. While pesticides are toxic within wilderness environments and to humans, according to surveys conducted by the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension, the amount of pesticides used on tree farms has fallen substantially, further establishing the benefits of real trees. (

In the end, real trees are more desirable than artificial ones. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. So whether you have to convince your parents to buy a real tree before you get home or you’re debating how to dec out your campus home, a real tree is the way to go.

Not only are they more environment-friendly due to their recyclability, there’s nothing that beats the rustic feel and smell of a real, grown Christmas tree.

Harsha is a freshman in Engineering.

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