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If you celebrate Christmas and put up a tree each year, have you ever really thought about the environmental impact of beloved tradition? There has been a lot of debate, especially in recent years when sustainability is a bigger topic of conversation, around which type of Christmas tree, real or artificial, is greener. The New York Times took a deep dive in their recent article, “Real vs. Artificial Christmas Trees: Which Is the Greener Choice?” and here is what they found out.

 

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When it comes to artificial trees, the biggest concerns are that they made from plastics and chemicals, they are often made overseas and that they can wind up in the landfill. But the article claims that if the fake tree is used for five or more years, it can be more sustainable than a real tree which can waste more gas, water and energy.

The biggest misconception surrounding the real version is that it’s bad to be cutting down trees. But cutting down Christmas trees is similar to harvesting crops and they’re by no means wiping forests clear. “Once it’s cut down, the farmer will generally plant at least one in its place. The trees provide many benefits to the environment as they grow, cleaning the air and providing watersheds and habitats for wildlife,” the NYT piece states.

Real trees are ultimately the better option when purchased locally and recycled properly. After December 25th, the trees can be turned into wood chips used for compost and mulch. Discarded trees can even be used to prevent beach erosion or serve as fish habitats when sunk into lakes. Just remember to look up the proper way to recycle the tree in your area.

The bottom line, as the article suggests, is that “the tree is just a drop in the bucket in this season of air travel and consumerism.” If you really want to make a difference environmentally this Christmas, there are much bigger things to consider than the tree.