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Fake vs. Real Christmas Trees? You Might Be Surprised at This Answer

December 2, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Many Missourians will soon be making the big decision: whether to buy a real or artificial Christmas tree. It's a choice with both environmental and economic impacts.

Bill Ulfelder with The Nature Conservancy says natural Christmas trees provide major environmental benefits, including capturing global-warming pollution and preventing erosion as they grow. On the other hand, he says most fake trees are manufactured abroad using polyvinyl chlorides, PVCs.

"Folks use an artificial tree for about five or six years – so, energy-intensive to produce, energy-intensive to ship – and then, it just sits there in landfill and doesn't biodegrade."

Ulfelder adds there are plenty more environmental advantages to real trees.

"They capture climate-changing gasses from the atmosphere, so they help abate climate change; they're putting oxygen into the air for us to breathe. They're good for wildlife – mammals, birds, insects..."

Nonetheless, he says twice as many Americans buy artificial trees, which typically come from Asia. And making the switch to a real tree not only helps the environment, but the U.S. economy. Nationally, natural Christmas tree production is a $1 billion industry that provides about 100,000 jobs.

Ulfelder says there are more than 12,000 Christmas tree farms nationwide.

"My family and I, we're always looking to make sure we get a local tree, the other thing that's starting to happen is more and more organic Christmas trees - trees produced with no pesticides or herbicides, also better for the environment."

The Missouri Christmas Tree Association has information about local growers, at missourichristmastrees.org.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO