(WHTM) — As the holiday season begins, you may be wondering whether you should get a real or fake Christmas tree.
Some people love the smell of a real tree, while others like the convenience of one that doesn’t shed needles, and that they can stow away after the holidays.
One thing to consider when making your decision, however, is your carbon footprint.
There is some debate about whether a real or fake tree is better for the environment
While some people think buying a fake tree is more eco-friendly because it doesn’t involve cutting down a real tree, some experts say it’s better to support tree farm businesses.
According to The Nature Conservancy, for example, out of the 350 to 500 million trees that grow on tree farms in the U.S., only 30 million trees are harvested for Christmas per year. The trees that aren’t harvested help keep land covered and provide important forest habitat for wildlife.
More, The Nature Conservancy states that nearly 90% of fake trees in the U.S. are shipped from China. This leads to an increase in carbon emissions.
If you’re leaning towards getting a real tree however, there are other issues to keep in mind.
The The National Wildlife Foundation says that the problem with real trees comes when it’s time to dispose of them.
According to the foundation, real trees are often either end up in a landfill, are incinerated, or are composted.
A tree that ends up in a landfill will break down very slowly, or not at all, the foundation says. This means that while the trees will continue to store all of their carbon, they add to the landfills which pollute nearby water with toxic chemicals and harm wildlife.
Incineration, the foundation says, is worst thing you can do with your real tree after the holidays. This process releases all of the carbon that is stored in the tree back into the atmosphere, which they explain can speed up climate change.
The foundation points to composting as the best option, though it still releases some carbon.
The benefit to a fake tree is that it can be reused. In fact, their estimate is that fake trees actually have a smaller carbon footprint than real trees that are incinerated or coposted after use if they’re used for at least five to 10 years.
When it is time to get rid of artificial trees however, the Nature Conservancy says they are often not recyclable and sit in landfills.
If you decide to get a real tree both the The Nature Conservancy and The National Wildlife Foundation both recommend looking for options to reuse or recycle your Christmas tree after the holidays.
The foundation trees says that the trees can be turned into compost or wood chips and be donated to local farmers and gardeners. The Conservancy also advises looking for ways to donate your real tree to a conservation or habitat project.