Christmas Tree Sustainability: Real vs. Artificial

Get Involved, Learn More, Melissa Orzechowski, Uncategorized

Maybe you have similar memories of running around a Christmas tree farm searching the place for the perfect tree, your tree. Every year I look forward to the hunt and to the fresh scent of a real tree in our home. But recently I’ve started to wonder about the sustainability of cutting down millions of trees across the U.S. each year. What about reduce, reuse, recycling? What is better for the environment, a plastic tree or a real one? I decided to look for myself.

Here’s what I found:


-Typical lifespan: 3-10 years.

-80% are manufactured in China and shipped thousands of miles to the U.S.

-Recycling: Trees can be recycled, but it can be a challenge to find a place that will accept them in your area.

-Trees are made of PVC and metal, both of which are non-renewable fossil fuels and are extracted from the earth

Elmcrest Acres Don

-98% percent are grown by U.S. farmers (the other 2% are wild cut) that plant three new trees for each one cut.

-93% percent are recycled back to the soil either through backyard composting or community programs.

-Real trees absorb carbon dioxide and each acre provides enough oxygen for 18 people daily.



Decide for yourself, but it seems to me real trees are:

       Better for the environment: providing habitat to wildlife, decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide

            More recyclable: can be returned to the soil easily

            Better for our local economies: purchasing a tree grown in your area supports people and jobs in your area.

More facts about real Christmas trees:

            -Michigan grows the largest variety of Christmas trees

            -Michigan is one of the top Christmas tree producing states (ranked 3rd).

            -24% of trees are sold directly on the farm, the rest are sold at chain stores (35%), retail lots (15%), or by non-profits (15%)

Wondering where you can find a tree grown by a member of your community now? Start here.

For more information about Michigan Christmas trees visit:

            Michigan Christmas Tree Association

            MSU Extension

Article sources:

            National Christmas Tree Association

            Michigan Christmas Tree Association

            University of Illinois Extension

            Tree Classics

Melissa Orzechowski is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. She insists on putting every ornament on her family’s real tree every year, especially the homemade ones.  Contact her at

Photo credits: Elmcrest Acres, Daggett, MI 

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