The Green Choice: Real or Artificial Christmas Tree?

Growing Up Green! Welcome to the weekly series, Growing up Green.  This will be your eco-friendly stop for green, all-natural, toxin and chemical free tips for your family.   Learn simple and meaningful ways to make your children’s environment a little safer for their health and the earth.

Image from apartment therapy

This has been a long time debate with strong supporters on both sides.  There are pro’s and con’s to both real and artificial trees but after breaking down the data there becomes a clear Green Star.

 Artificial Christmas Tree


  •    1 tree last for years, on average 6-9 years
  •    Savings on gas to and from tree farms yearly


  • Most trees are petrolium-based and are made of plastics, including toxic and non-biodegradeable PVC and metals
  • They will therefore sit in landfills for hundreds of years
  • Older trees may contain lead.
  • Significant resources are required to provide energy for factories to produce artificial trees
  • 85% of artificial trees are made in China according to the National Christmas Tree Association

Real Christmas Tree


  • Real trees do not cause deforestation, most come from tree farms
  • Tree farms provide natural habitat to animals
  • Tree farms absorb CO2 and emmit fresh oxygen.
  • Christmas trees in the US provide enought oxygen for 18 million people daily – wow!
  • Tree farms help prevent erosion
  • Real trees can be treecycled into mulch for your garden, learn more about treecycling here.  Find a location near you here.  In Columbus, Ohio bring your tree to SWACO for drop off.   Contact here or here for pick up.     If you would like to take home the mulch from your tree try Kurtz Brothers.


  •  Gas required driving to the tree farm each year
  • The use of pesticides and herbicides on the trees (except on organic farms)
  • Trees purchased in areas that cannot grow them, where the tree must travel a distance to make it to the tree lot (however travel from state to state uses less resources than traveling overseas)

The Green star goes to….. the real tree!  Read about different types of trees available and care for your tree.  Also check out these top 10 Christmas Tree myths.

 Family History

My family has had a long tradition of cutting down our own tree.  As a child we went the day after Thanksgiving 45 minutes down the road to a tree farm.  We hunted for the perfect family tree.  I usually wanted the largest tree possible with long, soft needles, such as the white pine.  My mother usually went for a smaller fir tree with short, strong, and stiff needles.  We have alternated over the years through different types.  I enjoyed watching my dad cut down our special tree.  My dad took out the back bench of our van and sometimes let my sisters and I sit in the back with the tree (probably not the safest idea, but we thought it was soo cool at the time).  We kept the tree outside for a few weeks before brining it in to decorate.  My dad played Christmas music and made popcorn while decorating the tree.  Eggnog and hot chocolate were often part of the event.  My mom always did the lights and we all helped with the ornaments.  It was a fun family tradition.

 The Next Generation

Family Fun

Last weekend we headed 20 miles to Homestead Farm  in Alexandria, Ohio.  We had such a positive experience last year that it was a no-brainer to head back to the same farm this year and hopefully many years to come.  Jack thoroughly enjoyed the tractor ride to the field.  Tractors and trucks are very exciting to Jack.  We enjoyed a pleasantly sunny and warm day and plenty of trees to choose from.   We found a winner right away but explored the field for a while to enjoy the fresh air before heading back to the barn.  We chose a 7ft white pine; perfect for the spot we planed for it in our home.  Its amazing how much smaller the trees look outside compared to in the house!  Into the field

The winner

Tractor Ride

After the tractor ride back to the barn we enjoyed a warm cup of hot chocolate and cozy fire.  We brought our tree home and put it in water immediately at the recommendation of the staff at Homestead.  It guzzled quite a bit the first few hours then slowed.  Jacked helped mom put the lights on and Dad helped with the ornaments.  Jack tried to take off the ornaments as fast as we put them on.  There are an unusually large amount of ornaments on the top of our tree with a desolate base.  Ever time Jack takes one off we place it up higher.  And of course we played Christmas and burned a fire while we worked!  I can’t wait to see Jack’s face light up when he sees our tree on Christmas morning!  I think it will probably be even more exciting and rewarding than experiencing it as a child myself.  Read more about American Tree Farms


Having fun

Having fun

Find a farm near you to cut down your Christmas tree in Ohio

Trivia:  Who developed the first artifical christmas tree in 1930?  Answer


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    jstwndrng said,

    Dr. Heather,
    Thanks for the post. I found a link to it at the bottom of my own post about this same tradition. I’m glad the real tree won your green star…you had me sweatin’ there for a minute. Happy Holidays to you and yours.


    • 2

      Dr. Heather Prenger said,

      Matt – Thats interesting (the link, don’t know how that gets there but cool). Looks like your family had a nice christmas tree experience too – my son would have love a train ride like that! Yes, I have long been a fan of cutting down a christmas tree and making a family tradition of it – I just wanted to give an informative posing on the pros and cons of each choice. Enjoy your holiday

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