Are Christmas Trees Bad for the Environment?

Are Christmas trees bad for the environment? Find out if one of our most classic holiday traditions is harming the earth.

Every year millions of Christmas trees are put up and decorated in homes around the world. Some are real, living plants cut down in the wild or purchased from a local tree farm. Others are made from synthetic materials like PVC.

With so many of these trees required and disposed of every year, you may wonder: Are Christmas trees bad for the environment? Here, we’ll look at some of the negative impacts Christmas trees can have on the environment, as well as some ways they can be repurposed and recycled to benefit the earth.

Are Real Christmas Trees Bad For the Environment?

Real Christmas trees can be bad for the environment in a few ways. Many are grown with the aid of controversial pesticides that can harm the environment and humans. Some Christmas tree farms also ship their trees all across the United States, producing a ton of carbon emissions.

For the most part, though, real Christmas trees are a net environmental positive. Tree farms are essentially man-made forests that provide the same ecological benefits as actual forests, releasing oxygen into the air and taking in carbon dioxide.

Only a fraction of the trees at tree farms are cut down every year to be sold. And according to the National Christmas Tree Association, one to three seeds are planted for every Christmas tree sold. In many ways, buying a Christmas tree annually is one of the best things that you can do to sustain forestry in your area.

Are Fake Christmas Trees Bad for the Environment?

Artificial Christmas trees are much more problematic for the environment than real trees. Millions of fake trees are sold every Christmas season, and the manufacturing process produces carbon emissions.

Most fake Christmas trees are made in China and shipped all around the world, creating even more emissions. But it’s what happens to artificial trees later that can really hurt the environment. Artificial trees are mostly made of materials that can’t be recycled, so people simply throw them away. They end up in landfills along with other plastic waste.

How to Dispose of a Christmas Tree

Recycling is the best way to dispose of a real Christmas tree. Many cities offer free Christmas tree recycling services; some will pick up a tree right from your curb.

If you’re on the handy side, you can recycle the tree yourself by turning it into mulch or chopping it into firewood for an outdoor firepit. Just make sure you only burn the logs and none of the pine needles, which are hard to control.

Disposal options for an artificial tree are much more limited. You may be able to recycle certain parts of certain trees, but on the whole they’re not recyclable.

The best thing you can do with an artificial tree, if it’s still in decent shape, is to donate it to a place like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If it’s beyond saving, try to repurpose some of the parts into new holiday decorations.