Fake, real trees both carry pros, cons

Nov. 23, 2012 @ 06:06 PM

  “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, thy leaves are so unchanging.”
Unless, of course, you actually have a real tree.
With the approach of Christmas season comes the age-old debate — real vs. artificial trees.
In the 1930s, U.S.-based toilet bowl brush manufacture Addis Brush Co. gave consumers an alternative to live Christmas trees with its artificial tree made from brush bristles. While the battle continues to play out every year, both sides of the forest have their advantages and disadvantages.
“Our most popular sales come from the real trees because most people like the smell that comes with one,” said Donald Whitaker Jr., assistant store manager of the lawn and garden center at Lowe’s. “We don’t get our real trees in until a week before Thanksgiving because they will dry out. Most consumers buy between now and next weekend. We will probably run out.”
Many consumers buy an artificial tree to avoid cutting down a new tree each year, for convenience and to save money. Artificial trees are appealing for their investment value when compared with the recurrent, annual $40 to $80 expense of a real Christmas tree. Their convenience also is appealing to consumers because they don’t need watering, don’t leave pine needles all over the floor and don’t need transportation from tree farm to home.
“The storage and the LED lighting is one reason people prefer artificial trees, but we sell more real trees than the artificial trees,” Whitaker said. “Our average sales for the season is usually is 65 percent real and 45 percent artificial.”
Having real trees also can benefit your health because the trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases while releasing oxygen into a room. While they are high-maintenance, the majority of consumers still prefer that Christmas-tree smell that reminds them that the holidays are right around the corner.
Some believe artificial trees actually have a greater negative environmental impact when all aspects of their life cycle is considered. Artificial trees typically are manufactured with metal and polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic. Many older varieties may contain lead, used as a stabilizer in the manufacturing process. Artificial trees are non-recylable and non-biodegradable, which could mean that they could end up sitting in a landfill for a while after disposal.
Unlike their plastic counterparts, real trees can be recycled into mulch or replanted rather than sitting in the landfill. It is because of that some consumers consider them more environmentally friendly.
cdavis@hpe.com | 888-3657