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Christmas Trees: Are Real or Artificial Better for the Environment?

Christmas Trees: Are Real or Artificial Better for the Environment?

Nearly 96 million U.S. households displayed a Christmas tree in their home in 20191. With numbers seemingly increasingly annually, this brings the question of are real or artificial Christmas trees more environmentally friendly? We’ve got all the answers.

Real Christmas Trees

When thinking about millions of real trees being cut down annually for the holiday season, it’s easy to immediately think that the use of real trees is a bad thing for the environment – but it turns out that this is a myth.

Christmas trees are a crop, similar to fruits and vegetables, which usually grow on a designated farm. Christmas tree farms allow the trees to grow for about a decade, reaching five to six feet in height before cutting them down. Once a tree has been chopped down, at least one new seedling is planted in its place. As new trees grow from the seedlings, they provide benefits to the environment including cleaning the air, providing watersheds, and being a habitat for wildlife.2

It is important that once you’re done with your real tree, you properly recycle it. Real Christmas trees are biodegradable and can easily be turned into mulch.3 In years past PNM and the cities of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho have teamed up to provide free real Christmas tree recycling. While there is not information as of yet for their 2020 program, we hope to see this tradition continuing. Check pnm.com as the holiday approaches if you plan on getting a real tree. 

Pricing for real, living Christmas trees starts at $80 from Osuna Nursery. Permits for cutting down your own Christmas tree from a National Forest can be purchased online.  

Artificial Christmas Trees

One of the biggest problems with artificial trees is that once they aren’t wanted anymore, they get thrown into the landfill where they are not biodegradable or compostable.

While real Christmas trees prove to be a more environmentally friendly option, there are cases when artificial trees may not be so bad.

The negative environmental impact is lower than that of using a real Christmas tree if you use the artificial tree for five or more years.2 Prices for one-time use real Christmas trees range from $60-$90 at Lowe’s, meaning an artificial Christmas tree may be a more money conscious choice as some are as low as $100 for a tree of the same height for multiple uses.

If you plan on purchasing an artificial Christmas tree this year, stop and think about whether you’re planning on using it for at least four more years to help reduce the negative environmental impact it leaves.


  1. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/ninety-six-million-u-s-households-will-celebrate-the-christmas-holiday-with-a-christmas-tree-in-2019-1028752619#:~:text=10%2C%202019%20%2FPRNewswire%2DPRWeb,(ACTA)%20conducted%20by%20Nielsen
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/26/business/energy-environment/fake-christmas-tree-vs-real-tree.html
  3. https://realchristmastrees.org/all-about-trees/how-to-recycle/

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