It’s evident now more than ever how our consumer choices and lifestyle decisions have significant and lingering effects on the planet and the precarious ecological system on which we depend. Images of oceans packed with more plastic than fish, communities devastated by natural disasters and landscapes scorched by record temperatures are visual representations of action and reaction.
Everything down to the type of artificial Christmas tree we choose has a resounding impact on how hospitable the world of tomorrow will be, which makes “eco-fying” one of your most beloved holiday traditions not only worth it, but imperative.
“Artificial Christmas trees are commonly made from PVC or polyethylene plastics and imported from China or South Korea,” explained Emily Fletcher, a sustainability expert and founder of the Australian Clean + Conscious Awards. “Both of these plastics are derived from petrochemicals and create huge greenhouse gas emissions in their manufacture.”
While it’s nearly impossible to find artificial Christmas trees that are not made from PVC or some kind of polyethylene plastics, there are some made from recycled PVC, which is a much better option if you’re buying your first artificial tree or replacing one that’s busted.
“Depending on what the artificial Christmas tree is made and sourced from, it has the potential to be one of the most sustainable products,” said Matt Bertulli, a longtime waste management advocate and the CEO of Pela, an international sustainability company that makes everyday products out of everyday waste. “By purchasing one artificial tree made of sustainable products and materials, you are drastically reducing harmful products from being thrown into the environment.”
Robert Gibson, a professor at the school of environment, resources and sustainability at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told HuffPost it’s crucial to consider “the full life cycle of the products involved. For an artificial tree, that includes the effects of extracting the materials, manufacturing, transporting, using, storing, recycling or disposing.”
Although artificial trees made in the U.S.A. are very few and far between, Gibson’s words suggest that locally made trees, which likely haven’t used as much fossil fuel to arrive at your doorstep, are worth the effort in the long run if you can find one. Buying domestic can also help prevent you from experiencing the host of global supply issues that are having a huge impact on the artificial tree industry.
That said, the use that you get out of the tree is perhaps the most critical factor.
“The idea behind using an artificial tree is that it will be used repeatedly and therefore save a living tree from being cut down and subsequently heading to landfill just a few weeks later,” Fletcher said. “So, if you’re doing an artificial tree, the most important factor in its sustainability is to use it for as many years as possible.”
Take a look at some of the artificial Christmas trees on the more sustainable side below for an earth-conscious Christmas.
A pre-lit artificial Dunhill fir from National Tree Company
Professor Greys Sošić
is chair of the department of data sciences and operations at University of Southern California and an expert in supply chain management and sustainability. Sošić told HuffPost that "when choosing lights, LED lights are the better choice due to their energy efficiency."
This pre-lit tree from National Tree Company uses dual multi-colored LED lights that are low heat and have 10 different functions. The nine-foot Dunhill fir is also made in the U.S., so there'll be no carbon emissions as a result of overseas shipping.
A full branch wood Christmas tree by WelcomeToTheWoodshop
"There are more sustainable reusable tree options, such as a living tree in a pot or one made from driftwood, decorated branches or sustainably sourced timber," Fletcher told HuffPost.
This unique Christmas tree alternative can be adjusted and designed in an endless number of ways and be taken apart easily for convenient storage. Standing six feet in height, the base and branches are handmade from recycled wood pine, poplar and oak by a carpenter in Pennsylvania.
An Oncor mixed Alberta fir Christmas tree
The full, lush branches of alternating evergreen colors help add to the realism of this seven-foot tree. Oncor promises you can get 30 years of use from their trees, which are made from 100% reused PVC plastic. They also donate a percentage of their sales to FTP
(For The Planet) approved non-profit environmental organizations around the globe.
A Goplus pink artificial Christmas tree
If you're bored with the traditional green Christmas tree, then this blush pink beauty might be the antidote. Modeled after the plush fullness of a Northern spruce, this artificial tree by Goplus is seven feet tall and comes with hinged branches that are easy to bend to your preference. The realistic needles are also made with premium environmentally PVC plastic, safe for indoor and outdoor use.
Oncor's slim Parana pine Christmas tree
This Parana slim pine stands seven feet tall and features pops of lighter branches, also made from 100% recycled PVC plastic. Oncor uses a hook-tree construction and knock-down packaging to reduce carbon emissions from shipping and packaging waste.
A Texas Blue Spruce tree from Oncor
This artificial Texas Blue Spurce by Oncor stands five feet tall and is made from 100% recycled and non-toxic PVC plastic. With a diameter up to 42 inches, this is a good option for spaces that can accommodate wider trees but have shorter ceilings.
Mini pampas grass tree
This is a fun and rustic way to approach your Christmas tree this, especially if you have a smaller space, want to be able to place your tree on a counter or mantle, or need something compact for the office. The multi-colored dried pampas grass branches are natural, yet durable enough to be enjoyed year after year.
An Oncor aspen fir Christmas tree
Traditionally, aspen firs are seen peppering snow-capped mountains and are best identified by their slightly upturned branches. And while this seven-and-a-half-foot tree wasn't grown in such a stunning landscape, it is made with 100% recycled PVC plastic that's both non-toxic and flame retardant. With a 42-inch max diameter, this can be a good option for more narrow and taller spaces.