Climate solutions

Which Christmas tree is greener?

Artificial trees can last for years, but natural trees can absorb planet-warming carbon emissions before they are cut. So which option is best for the climate?

This article, by CNN’s Rachel Ramirez, does the analysis, comparing plastic trees to Christmas-tree-farm trees:

Her conclusion: Weighing the complicated climate pros and cons, real Christmas trees have the edge. But if you choose to deck your halls artificially, get a tree you’re going to love and reuse for many years.

Ramirez quotes Andy Finton, the landscape conservation director and forest ecologist for the Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts: “It’s a debate, but once you’ve made a decision, you should feel good about your decision, because there’s so many other things we can do in our lives that have an even greater climate impact — such as driving less or advocating for policies that expand renewable energy.”

Add to that list of things we can do: reducing food waste, choosing to eat less meat, emphasizing local rather than imported foods, taking the no-fly pledge, and focusing on the Reduce and Reuse aspects of the well-known jingle.

I noticed that Ramirez didn’t include living trees in her analysis.

About 4 years ago, I bought a tiny tabletop tree in a 4″ flowerpot. After the holiday season, I repotted it into a 1-gallon container and kept it out on my patio with my other container plants. Each year since then, I bring it in for two or so weeks at the peak of the holiday season, then back outdoors it goes. This year it’s in a 5-gallon container and it reaches to my hip. The container likely stunts its growth, so I figure I have a few more seasons out of it before it gets too unwieldy.

Sure, mine is tiny — no ceiling-scraping tree here. But there’s zero fossil-fueled transportation each year, it’s all my own sweat labor. With all Ramirez includes in her article (PVC, transportation, forest thinning, permits, regrowth), starting tiny with a grow-your-own seems like a pretty good option too.

  • Ramirez, R. C. (2021, November 26). Natural vs. artificial: Which Christmas tree option is better for climate? CNN.