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Are real or fake Christmas trees better for the planet?

Written by Science

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Except for the planet, which is fucked. Wrapping paper, food waste, electricity. But between fake and real trees, which one most accelerating the speed that our planet bursts into flames? 

The first obvious thought is that cutting down trees is bad for the planet, so it’s probably better to get a fake tree. But this is ignoring the fact that fake trees are made out of, you guessed it, plastic. According to the Guardian, a 6.5-foot artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to around 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, way more than a real tree. They’re also ridiculously hard to recycle, if not impossible. 

If this information has convinced you that a real tree is the way forward, the greenest way to get one is to buy locally – this reduces the carbon footprint of your tree as it won’t have to travel to get to you. It’s also significantly better for the planet if you burn your tree or plant it in the garden once January rolls round rather than putting it in a landfill. When trees decompose, they produce methane gas which is screwing us up even worse than carbon dioxide. 

But say you really want a fake tree – maybe you want to get a fun colour, and you’ve made enough sustainable changes this year that you feel like you deserve one. The most environmental thing you can do is buy a second-hand fake tree so that you’re not paying to produce yet more plastic. It’s also worth considering that you can use an artificial tree every year, possibly for the rest of your life, whereas you’d have to buy a real tree every year. 

Basically, it’s greener to buy a real Christmas tree. But there are ways to reduce your environmental impact either way, so just be mindful. Either way, we’re fucked! Merry Christmas! 

Last modified: 13th April 2020

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