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Fake vs. Real Christmas Trees? A Surprising Answer

December 6, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - As Nutmeggers contemplate whether to buy a real Christmas tree or the artificial kind, it's helpful to consider the environmental and economic impacts of these choices.

Bill Ulfelder, director of The Nature Conservancy, New York, says natural Christmas trees provide major environmental benefits while they are growing, such as preventing erosion.

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 the landfill and doesn't biodegrade."

However, he says twice as many Americans buy artificial trees, and those usually come from Asia. He says making the switch to a real tree not only helps the environment, it also helps the economy.

Ulfelder cites just a few of the environmental advantages to choosing a real Christmas tree.

"They capture climate-changing gases 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..."

Connecticut has more than three dozen Christmas tree farms.

"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."

Nationally, natural Christmas tree production is a $1 billion industry that supports 100,000 jobs.

For a list of Connecticut Christmas tree farms see

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT