Real Christmas Trees Less Harmful to Environment than Artificial Trees

According to a plant biologist, buying a real Christmas tree is better on the environment than using an artificial one for a few years and then throwing it away.

Clint Springer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia says buying a real Christmas tree may not solve global warming, but it can help less the impact on the environment by being a great alternative to artificial trees.

"At this time of year, choosing a real Christmas tree is one way that an average person can make a difference in terms of climate change," Springer says. "A study as recent as 2009 (Ellipsos) concluded that a 7-foot cut tree's impact on climate is 60 percent less than a 7-foot artificial tree used for six years. So while cut trees are not carbon-neutral, in terms of carbon-use, they are better than artificial trees."

Springer does acknowledge that some family choose artificial trees because access to real trees may not be readily available to them, family members may have tree allergies, or the families may feel that real trees are too expensive to purchase each year.

"Ultimately, people need to make the choice that makes the most sense for their family, but they should keep in mind that real Christmas trees do not trigger allergic reactions," Springer says. "Farm-raised trees are too young to be reproductive in most cases, so pollen is not an issue. It's possible, though, that some people might be sensitive to the natural scent of the trees."

For those that are sensitive to the natural smell of the tree, Springer suggests selecting a pine tree instead of a fir, because pines typically have a weaker scent. Another concern people may have about a real tree in the home is mold, which can also affect those with allergies or other ailments such as asthma. Springer says that mold on the tree shouldn’t be an issue because the mold spores that may be on the tree does not usually become airborne.