Written by Emily McClements of Live Renewed.

It”s an age-old debate: Real vs. Artificial Christmas Tree?  Most people stand firmly on one side of this debate or the other. Those who grew up with a live Christmas tree in their home cannot imagine having a fake plastic tree, and those who are used to artificial trees don”t want to deal with the mess and clean-up that an live Christmas tree creates.

But, no matter where your loyalties lie, it”s important to look at the pros and cons of each type of tree to decide which is the healthiest option for your family, and the best for the Earth.

Artificial Christmas Trees


  • You can purchase them one time and use them year after year.
  • Artificial Christmas trees keep live trees from being cut down and disposed of within a few weeks.


  • Artificial trees are made mostly of PVC which is a petroleum product, a nonrenewable resource.  The production of this type of plastic releases one of the most toxic chemicals, dioxin, into the environment.
  • Although artificial trees could used over and over again, for twenty years or more, statistics show that most trees are discarded after anywhere from six-nine years of use, and they end up in the trash where they are filling up our landfills.
  • Some artificial trees can contain levels of lead that are unsafe for children to be around. Lead is used as a stabilizer for PVC, and over years of use, artificial trees can release lead dust which can land on the branches, on the floor, or on presents below the tree, posing a hazard to your family.
  • Artificial trees require resources both for production and for shipping them, and over 90 percent of artificial trees are made in China.
Photo by sdminor81

Real Christmas Trees


  • Live trees benefit the environment, by producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide, while they are growing, and are a renewable resource.
  • You can purchase a real tree from a local Christmas tree farm that uses sustainable farming practices, meaning that for each tree cut down, one to three new seedlings will be planted.
  • Real Christmas trees can be recycled after you are finished with them, around 90% of real Christmas trees are turned into mulch each year.


  • Fir trees are susceptible to pests and diseases requiring the use of chemicals and pesticides.
  • If you live in a city or a warm climate where fir trees cannot be locally grown, atoledo.com  your real tree may have to be shipped from a distance to get to you.
Photo by Emily at Live Renewed

Consider a Different Option

Another great choice for a green Christmas Tree is to get a live potted tree. Last year my parents had a potted Christmas tree, and while it was smaller than a standard Christmas tree, it requires some special care, and you can”t have it in the house from Thanksgiving until after the New Year, I still think that it can be a great option for some families.

Live Christmas Tree


  • You are preserving a live tree that can be reused or replanted after the holiday season
  • A small potted tree can be reused for several years without having to be replanted.
  • Some companies replant trees for customers around schools and churches, in parks, or nature preserves


  • You may not have the space to replant a live Christmas tree each year.
  • May be smaller size than you are used to for a Christmas Tree.

Making Your Choice

I am a real tree girl, myself.  I cherish the memories of going to a local farm and cutting down a tree with my family when I was growing up, and I want to pass that same tradition on to my children.

If you choose to cut down a real tree, take some time to do your research before you head out to the tree farm to ask about their farming practices. Just like with buying food locally, you may be able to find a tree farm that uses fewer pesticides, or more organic farming practices, and choose to give that farm your business.

If you already have an artificial tree you may have a tough decision to make.  Do you throw away your tree where it will sit in a landfill?  Do you keep using it because you already have it, even though you may be exposing your family to the toxic effects of lead? One option could be to donate your tree to a nursing home, or somewhere like that where it is just used for display and the effects of lead dust would be not be as big of an issue as in your home.

If you have the space available to replant a tree, or you like the idea of keeping a potted tree to use for several years, and don”t mind having a smaller size Christmas tree, I”d encourage you to consider buying a live potted Christmas tree this year.  You may just start a new tradition for your family!

What type of Christmas Tree does your family celebrate with?