The Toxic Side of Artificial Trees

Every December, people flock to superstores to do the “green” thing: purchase an artificial tree in hopes of saving a few trees from being chopped down.

We hate to break it those sustainable consumers, but that eco-friendly decoration isn’t so green after all. That toxic artificial tree would need to be decorated for at least 20 years to be considered more environmentally friendly than a farm-grown tree. Most families display the same artificial tree tree for only 6-10 years before dumping it in the landfill.

According to a poll performed by ABC News and the Washington Post, 60 percent of Americans opt to decorate a plastic, artificial tree for the holidays. Fake trees are reusable, cheap, and may even come pre-decorated; we get it. Consumers might think they’re saving a few dollars, but artificial trees come at a big cost for the environment and their family’s health.

Cons of Artificial Trees 

  • They’re made from hazardous PVC (plastic vinyl chloride)


  • Many contain lead and come with a warning label advising consumers to wash their hands after handling the trees to prevent ingestion of the brain-damaging metal


  • Artificial trees cannot be recycled


  • Nearly 85 percent of artificial trees are imported from China


After its 10 year life-span is up, that artificial Christmas tree will sit in a landfill haunting you like the ghost of Christmas past for centuries.  On the bright side, many cities have created Christmas tree recycling programs for real Christmas trees. According the National Christmas Tree Association, there are over 4,000 recycling active Christmas tree recycling programs in the United States.  The recycled Christmas trees can be used for mulch, bird feeders, hiking paths, and more.

Check out our blog, How to Have a Green Christmas, to learn more about the environmental benefits of real trees. The National Christmas Tree Association provides additional facts and figures. 

Christmas trees are grown specifically for Christmas. The U.S. farm-grown Christmas tree industry creates more than 100,000 jobs across all 50 states. In fact, Michigan is the third largest producer of Christmas trees. Approximately 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in American each year and about 93 percent of those are recycled. Contrary to popular belief, purchasing a real Christmas tree will not cause deforestation; for each tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted the following spring.  

If the environment isn’t a major concern for you, purchase a real tree to support local businesses. If that still doesn’t do the trick, do it for the family Christmas tradition or the smell of a fresh, real Christmas tree.

Now that you’ve decided (we hope) to purchase a real Christmas tree this holiday season, you have to decide what farm you’d like to visit and what species fits your needs. If you’re looking for a Christmas adventure with your family, we suggest visiting one of these choose and cut farms. Retail lots are a great option if you want a fresh, farm-grown tree without all the work.

We don’t know about you, but we don’t think your Christmas tree should come with a warning label. Don’t pollute your Christmas with an artificial tree. Keep it green and keep it local this season. Visit our website for more information about real Christmas trees.