The Frowzy Christmas Dilemma: Trees- Real or Artificial?

Ahhhh...Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season for the Frowzy family has begun.  We celebrate Christmas and observe Advent, so we begin decorating on the first Sunday of Advent, which this year, was yesterday.  That means we have a Christmas tree up for 4-5 weeks. As with many things, we try to view our celebrations in the light of family fun, earth friendliness, and common sense.  So, a couple of years ago, I did some research on the best way to go when it comes to Christmas trees and decorations. I realize that the live tree is the most eco-friendly third option, but that hasn't been an option that has really worked for us.

There have been lots and lots of really great articles giving the pros and cons of real Christmas trees vs. artificial trees. (And this goes without saying, that this information is for people who have a choice. I understand that some people do not.) After reading the articles and studies, we came to the conclusion that our regular tradition of cutting our own tree was the best choice for us. Here's Mr. Frowzy doing his best Lumberjack Look.

Mr. Frowzy's best lumberjack look
And here I'll sum up why (other than the fact that it is really, really fun!)

1.) If you have to go with artificial, buy one that is at least American made.  A LCA, or Life Cycle Assessment was done by Ellipsos that came to the conclusion,  "that a natural tree will generate 3.1 kg of greenhouse gases whereas the artificial tree will produce 8.1 kg per year. 'The results are astonishing', says Jean-Sébastien Trudel, president of ellipsos and co-author of the study. 'Considering that the artificial tree is reusable for many years, one would think that this choice is best since the natural tree requires annual trips to purchase it.'”

2.) When we are finished with our tree, the city picks it up and turns it into lovely fertile mulch that is free for residents.  Artificial trees cannot be recycled, so the landfill is the only option for disposal. When we lived in northern Minnesota, they were used frequently to stop erosion or provide fish habitats in lakes and streams.

3.) Artificial trees are made from PVC plastic which is petroleum based and produces several known carcinogens during its production, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, poisoning the environment around the factory. Compare that to an acre of Douglas Firs absorbing 11,308 lbs of carbon dioxide a year.

4.) While most Christmas trees are sprayed with pesticides during their 8 year growth cycle and this creates plenty of environmental damage, artificial trees use lead in the PVC to create the malleable plastic "needles" and have been the source for many health warnings, especially as the trees age and break down. Then the artificial trees themselves emit VOCs which cause a whole slew of other health problems. The best choice, of course would be to find organic tree farms.

Mr. Christmas Tree 2009

This was the thought process behind our choice. Plus, it is a great day out in the fields with kids running crazy trying to find the perfect tree. A warning though, this is a laughable event for a ADD family like ours. Just look at that happy tree!

Back to blog


Assuming you are talking about Christmas trees, that very much endpeds on how long you use your artificial tree for. Some people keep their artificial Christmas tree for thirty or forty years. For others they change it every couple of years to the latest fashion.Christmas trees are a pulp crop, just like growing a field of corn. They are a monocrop and don’t have anywhere near as much habitat value as a wood of mixed broadleaf trees. Most local councils offer recycling facilities now (at least in the UK) where the trees are chipped and used by the local council as mulch. Even if they go into the landfill, they still return to the soil.I personally feel that an artificial tree which you keep for many, many years is the best option.


I appreciate the ecological support behind my favoured choice. :) And I love your trees – can’t wait to see this year’s – is it big enough to make you happy?


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.