Real or artificial Christmas tree? The pros and cons

By Sheryl Smolkin

SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK

I am probably the wrong person to be writing about the pros and cons of real vs. artificial Christmas trees because we never celebrated Christmas or had a tree. Instead we lit Chanukah candles for eight nights and ate too many potato latkes (pancakes).

However, my research reveals that that the “real vs. artificial tree” debate is a perennial one, and the issues are somewhat different than I initially expected.

From purely a cost perspective, there seems little doubt that purchasing a well-constructed, long-lasting artificial tree is less expensive than buying a real tree every Christmas. In fact, in a Moneysense article published last December, Stefan Dubowski suggests that an artificial tree can be as much as $400 cheaper over 10 years.

He also notes that artificial trees are cleaner, there are no needles to gather up and no water reservoir that leaks or spills all over the presents. And it is less of a hazard because most artificial trees are fire resistant, whereas real trees dry out, making them more likely to burn.

He outlines characteristics you should look for in an artificial tree and recommends a pre-lit tree so you can avoid wrestling with tangled strings of lights each year. After reviewing four high-end trees sold last year at major Canadian retailers, he concludes that the Martha Stewart Living Pre-Lit Sparkling Pine Tree from Home Depot ($289) has the longest warranty (five years on the tree and two years on the lights) and is the best value overall.

But what about the environmental impact of real vs. artificial trees?

Some might make the case for fake trees because they are re-used every year and thus don’t generate the waste of their real counterparts. But fake trees are typically made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum derived plastic.

Several known carcinogens may be generated during PVC production polluting neighbourhoods near factory sites, many of which are in China. Furthermore, fake trees are not recyclable or biodegradable, so when they are disposed of they will fill up landfill sites for an indefinite period.

In contrast, the Saskatchewan Christmas Tree Growers Association reminds us that:

  • Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource.
  • For every real Christmas tree harvested, up to three seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • Real trees are environmentally friendly. They produce oxygen, sequester carbon, provide shelter for wildlife, help control erosion and are biodegradable.

However, what is more important is that selecting, bringing home and decorating a real tree is an important part of the holiday tradition for many families. Buying a tree at a department store and reassembling it every year may be a cheaper option over time, but opting for a real tree instead of an artificial tree is a decision you make with your heart.

Want to weigh in on the real vs. artificial debate? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

13-Nov Holiday gifts Ways to save money on winter driving
20-Dec Transportation Ways to save money on gas
27-Dec Coupons Coupon websites that can save you money

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