Greener Tree

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COLUMBIA - If you're purchasing a Christmas tree this holiday season, both fake and real trees have benefits, as well as disadvantages. But some experts say choosing a real tree might be the better option when it comes to the environment.

Artificial trees offer the convenience of already having a tree on hand each season and not having to buy a new tree each winter saves consumers money.

These trees are built to last, but this quality is actually one reason why some say real Christmas trees are the greener option.

Nearly all artificial trees are made with metal and PVC plastic, which makes them non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. This means that after you toss your fake tree, it will sit in a landfill for centuries.  

"It's always better for the environment, to use a natural, biodegradable product, instead of a synthetic, non-biodegradable product," said Beth Walterscheidt, spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association.

For those that are worried about deforestation, and the impact of cutting down so many Christmas trees each year, experts point out new trees will be grown in their place.

 "Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable resource that are grown on a farm just like any other crop," said Walterscheidt.

And once the holiday season is over, real trees can be returned to the Earth in the form of compost or ground up and used as mulch.

Hunter Maret of Sustain Mizzou says when it comes to being sustainable around the holidays, it's really about weighing your options. Including when it comes to picking out the perfect tree.

"When you buy a fake tree, you'll be able to use it for years and years to come," said Maret, adding, "but you can have sustainable forestry. That is a definite thing. And there is definitely a positive to getting a fake tree." 

Still, for those not willing to part with the extra cash for a real tree, there are still ways to keep your tree green. Use LED lights on your tree, which have about one-sixth the environmental impact of incandescent lights.