The big debate : Real vs fake Christmas trees

Among the countless controversial issues that divide families and create heated debates that no one asked for at the Christmas table, lies the eternal question: Real or artificial christmas trees?


This question is equivalent to “Were Ross and Rachel on a break?” and “Team Jacob vs Team Edward”… but make it Christmas! That’s why the A Shiny Day team, armed with the threefold: trench coat-magnifying glass-hat, turned into Sherlock Holmes, researched and shared their findings through this article.

But before we begin, I would like to share my favorite fact from this research:

The first fake Christmas tree was made by mistake by a company that specialized in toilet bowls! In short, they made a green toilet brush one day and said, “Hm, you know what this looks like? A christmas tree!”. Cool huh?

After this pleasant break, please note that we are not experts in the subject, we just did some research to take part in this eternal dialogue. However, we also spoke with our beloved agronomist from Fytotechnia Tsatsanis who willingly answered our questions.

Let’s start with a few words about each option :

Fake trees : 

  1. They are made from petroleum-based products, such as PVC, polyurethane foam or steel and need a lot of energy to be produced
  2. They are not recyclable and will take centuries to decompose in landfills
  3. They are usually imported from China, which means 3 things:
    1. Huge environmental footprint
    2. From all means of transportation, airplanes emit the most CO2
    3. China – the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, is the country with the dirtiest form of electricity *

* China uses coal-fired power plants to contribute to global warming and pollution

The good :

  • They can be reused and are considered to be an affordable “investment” for the consumer. There are families who have had their plastic tree for over 30 years. However, the average family uses a fake tree for six to nine years before throwing it away, after which it will remain in a landfill indefinitely. So long story short : it polluted nature during its production and will continue to pollute it indefinitely when discarded.

Real trees :

  1. They can be purchased locally
  2. Most real firs are cultivated in montane regions. Due to these crops, forests are created in uncultivated degraded areas. This means that for about 10 years, a forest lives in these areas and lavishly offers its numerous benefits. They absorb carbon dioxide, emit oxygen, and host wildlife.
  3. Although the idea of ​​cutting down trees does not sound very environmentally friendly, Christmas trees are replaced as soon as they are collected. Fir growers do not cut the whole piece they have planted, but do it in parts. Otherwise, they would have to wait another 10 years for the next fir collection.
  4. Real firs are sold in 2 ways:
    1. Cut: In this case, they die after a while
    2. In a pot: In this case, we can keep them alive in a pot for some years, or several years by transplanting it into the ground.
  5. Fir crops are quite eco-friendly as they are almost never sprayed and require minimal water, only a few specific months. Consider this :Some of the foods we eat, such as grains or vegetables, come from intensive crops that require much more water than a fir crop (1:50 ratio). More specifically, just because fir crops are located in alpine areas, they are watered only during the summer months and in fact, need very little water.
  6. In some countries, cut firs are harvested and turned into compost. In Greece, we learned that in the municipalities of Glyfada and Artemis Spata, they have pruning management facilities which are converted into compost. Maybe they also accept cut firs?
  7. The cut firs, when thrown away, do not pollute nature as they are biodegradable.

Carbon Trust estimates that a two-meter-tall artificial tree has twice the carbon footprint of a natural tree that ends up in a landfill.

Our conclusions and tips :

If you choose an artificial tree :
  • Invest in a good quality artificial tree, even if it’s more expensive, so that it lasts for more years.
  • Make sure to keep it in good condition, so that it lasts longer. For example, don’t let your cats hang from the branches.
  • You can borrow a tree from a relative who no longer needs it. Like, me.  I haven’t decorated a tree in 2 years.
  • You can buy a used second-hand tree
If you choose a real cut fir :
  • Make sure to receive some sort of certification or information as to where the tree was cultivated.
  • Research pruning management facilities in your area, so that the fir tree can be repurposed in some way after the holiday season is over.
  • Reconsider. I’m sorry, but I can’t be objective in this category. I don’t like the idea of growing a tree for 10 years, cutting it to use it for 20 days and then throwing it away as if it never existed. Even if it is biodegradable and leaves no waste behind. We need to respect nature and its efforts and cutting trees seems a bit surreal to me. I mean, I would never cut one of my plants and proceed to decorate it in my living room.
If you choose a real fir, in a pot :
  • Once the holiday season is over, you can transplant it into a larger pot, in your garden, your grandmother’s yard, or even in a flower bed of your Municipality.
  • Fir trees thrive in well-ventilated northern areas. This means that if the fir tree inhabits the northern suburbs of Athens, northern Greece and any northern region, it is more likely to live for many years.
  • You can even start from a small pot and watch it grow.
  • If you keep the fir in a pot on your balcony, your yard or even if you transplant it to the ground, we can decorate it every year.
If you don’t choose a tree at all :
  • Perfect! You can decorate a boat and use it every year!
  • You can decorate one of your house plants. I will do this as well this year!
  • If you don’t own any plants, you can hang lights and ornaments in different parts of the house.
  • You can make a makeshift Christmas tree like my dad makes every year. Just place some wood horizontally and form a triangle.
  • Or you can just not decorate at all, eh?

I hope this article was somewhat helpful. You can always share your thoughts in the comments below.

See you soon,

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