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Fake Christmas Trees vs. Real Trees

Which ones are better for the planet?

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Every Christmas, a battle rages: Should you get a fake Christmas tree, or a real one? Most Americans overwhelmingly choose real fir trees, but what happens when you take the environment into consideration? As Slate reports, the greener choice isn’t as obvious as it might seem.

On gut instinct, one might think plastic trees would be the environmentally sensitive choice, since they last up to 15 years and would obviate the need to cut down a new tree every year. Plus, even though most are shipped in from China, their carbon footprint is less than live trees that get trucked in from farms all over the country.

But real trees get the win: 80 percent of plastic trees contain PVC plastics, which contain carcinogens like dioxin and lead. As a fake tree ages, dioxin and lead can dust off of plastic trees. What’s more, there are few recycling options for your toxic fake tree.

Meanwhile, live trees are 98 percent farm-raised and replanted on a 3-to-1 basis, and most cities offer mulching options for leftover Christmas trees. Some communities even offer rent-a-tree options, after which potted Christmas trees are planted to create new green spaces.

So if you’d like to help keep your Christmas as green as possible, go with a live tree. And if you’re Jewish, you have us all beat, since you can use that menorah over and over again.

Do you get a real Christmas tree or have a fake one? Tell us in the comments section below.

—Ted Alvarez

Should I buy a fake fir? (Slate)