Christmas Tree Sustainability: Real vs. Artificial

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 my 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?

Here’s what we 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.

The bottom line

Real Trees are better for the environment. They provide habitat to wildlife and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide. Plus, they are More recyclable as they can be returned to the soil easily. They are also better for our local economies as 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 was the former Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. Contact Alex, our current UP Local Food Coordinator at [email protected].

Photo credits: Elmcrest Acres, Daggett, MI