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Fir Or Faux? (aka, the Great Christmas Tree Debate)

Dec 2016

The holiday season is upon us, so it’s time to think about Santa Claus, midnight shoppers, ice skaters in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, strings of colored lights, and maybe even chestnuts roasting on an open fire. 

And, for many, Christmas trees.

Millions of Americans each year purchase a real Christmas tree. Millions more will purchase a PVC tree or pull out the artificial tree they packed away last January and decorate that. 

Fir or faux?

Christmas trees are about a holiday, religion, and family. We all know people for whom going to the tree farm and picking out a tree is a family tradition passed down for generations. You might love the smell of fresh pine and associate that with your own childhood. Someone else might think pine needles all over the house, which are a pain to clean up, and opt for the PVC variety instead. 

There is no right or wrong decision. And, it turns out, there’s little evidence that one option is more or less environmentally sound than the other.

For example, both real and artificial vinyl trees will leave a dioxin fingerprint if they are improperly incinerated. Both, at end of life, end up in landfills. The main difference is that PVC trees tend to be reused year after year—so many don’t get trashed for years.

And while you may think that real trees will break down in a dust-to-dust kind of way, it turns out this doesn’t happen. Once buried in a landfill without oxygen present, there is in fact little or no decomposition of real trees. 

Finally, some people argue that artificial trees leach chemicals. This is not true. In fact, the vinyl in PVC trees is rigid vinyl film and doesn’t contain any toxic additives. 

At the end of the day, it’s about personal choice. Which do you prefer – fir or faux?