Should you choose an artificial or real Christmas tree?


The first ISO-compliant, third-party peer reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing the most common artificial Christmas tree to the most common real Christmas tree sold in the United States, found that the choice of either tree has a negligible impact on the environment.

The study, sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA), a non-profit organization of artificial Christmas tree retailers and real Christmas tree retailers, and conducted by PE INTERNATIONAL, is the first ISO-compliant, third-party peer reviewed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) comparing the two Christmas tree options in the U.S.

The LCA-study took into consideration five key indicators to determine which tree type is preferable from an environmental perspective. The results of the LCA found that the choice of either has a negligible impact on the environment compared with the overall individual family´s carbon footprint. However, the study’s findings also show that length of ownership, disposal method and “tree miles” can make a difference as to which tree is environmentally preferable.

Consumers need to consider an array of factors before choosing which tree is more environmentally friendly. These include:

  1. Purchase locally grown Christmas trees if possible.
  2. Consider “tree miles.” How far did the tree travel to get to your home? How far did you travel to get it?
  3. If you have purchased more than nine cut trees over the last nine years, consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts.
  4. If you own an artificial tree, make sure you keep it in use for at least six to nine years.  If you plan to replace an artificial tree, try to donate it rather than junking it.
  5. Properly dispose of your naturally cut Christmas tree by checking with your local waste authority.

The study also highlights an “Eight Christmas Environmental Payback Period” based on the fact that the environmental impacts of one artificial tree used for more than eight Christmases is environmentally friendlier than purchasing eight or more live cut trees over the same eight years.

Susan Fredholm Murphy


Subscribe to receive our newsletters