December Green Story

Which Christmas Tree is Greener?

Decorating a Christmas tree is a must do activity for the holiday season. But, which tree is greener? The artificial tree or the live tree? Here are some factors to consider as you choose the perfect tree this year.

Decorated Christmas Tree

Decorated Christmas Tree

Probably the biggest advantage of artificial Christmas trees is their longevity. You purchase a tree just once and it can be reused for years. Contrast that to a real tree that you have to purchase and replace year after year and that can add up to hundreds of dollars saved over the life an artificial tree. The key is to reuse the artificial tree as much as possible.

In 2009 the environmental firm Ellipsos of Montreal found that “an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually.” If you already have or plan to purchase an artificial tree maintain it in good condition by cleaning it and storing it in its original box during the off-season.

Artificial Christmas trees, however are made from petroleum-based, non-biodegradable plastics like PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and other metals and glues making them un-recyclable. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 85% of artificial Christmas trees are manufactured in China, which means they have to travel a very long way, increasing our carbon emissions.

Live natural Christmas trees however are harvested from tree farms that tend to be within a few hours from the retailer which greatly reduces carbon emissions from transportation. Tree farms are able to produce a sustainable product since one to three seedlings are planted to replace the tree that was harvested. These trees also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere replacing it with oxygen. One acre of Christmas trees is estimated to produce enough oxygen for the daily needs of eighteen people.Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.06.43 PM

Unlike artificial trees, live trees can be recycled when they’re chipped and made into mulch that can be used in landscaping and gardening. You can recycle your live, natural, undecorated tree by attending Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful’s annual Christmas Tree Recycling event at The Home Depot in Dalton on Saturday, January 9, 2016 from 8 am to 1 pm. Participants will receive a seedling or a packet of seeds to plant at home. Visit to learn more.

My personal favorite however is the real, live, natural Christmas tree with the unmistakable pine scent that reminds me of previous holiday festivities. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that choosing a tree is very personal. At the end of the day you need to choose the tree that will work best for you.

Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Contact her at 706-278-5001, or e-mail



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