• Lydia Yu

Artificial V. Real Christmas Trees

The holidays are fast approaching. Christmas trees are now on every street corner, every common room, and every mall. They might be even more prevalent than trash cans during the holiday season. But no trees are the exact same. Some are taller, some are wider, some have fewer branches, and some are made of plastic. We all know that the trees with more branches are more attractive and aesthetically pleasing than Charlie Brown Christmas trees. But, the contentious debate endures — are real or fake trees better? 56.1% of the 82 surveyed Stevenson students use real evergreen trees for Christmas while 43.9% use artificial trees.

(Note: only 32.6% of Americans use real trees. So the US population data differs greatly from the Stevenson one. One flaw of my polling system that might have created an artificially high result is that I surveyed students, not families, so one family might have several people that filled out the form even when only one tree was used.)

There are several factors to consider when choosing between fake and real trees, which include cost, cultural significance, and the carbon footprint. On average, artificial trees tend to be priced at around $100 but can last for more than 10 years. On the other hand, real trees can only survive several weeks but cost around $60. So, artificial trees do have a significant financial advantage since they can last a decade of family squabbling. Nonetheless, only 7.9% of Stevenson artificial-tree-owners use it primarily because it is a smart financial decision, not to mention that the majority of Stevenson students use real Christmas trees.

The next important aspect to consider about Christmas trees is the culture and ambience that real pine trees symbolize and create. 30.6% of Stevenson real-tree owners use them because it’s a family tradition. Spending the day picking out the perfect tree with your family is a nostalgic custom for many, so lots of people continue this important family bonding event. Additionally, in the Stevenson community, many indicate that the material that composes the tree affects the mood that it sets. In fact, the primary (40.8% of real-tree owners) reason to choose real Christmas trees is the ambience that the real tree sets with its smell and look. Statistically proven, nothing beats the smell of fresh pine.

Now, artificial and natural trees are on level pegging. The last critical point is the environmental impact of the two types of trees. Most students (57.3%) believe that artificial trees are better for the environment, which means that some people who use real trees also think that the fake ones are more eco-friendly. On the whole, the majority of the US population (60.5%) also believes that the fake tree has a smaller carbon footprint. However, contrary to popular belief, it’s not as clear-cut. For example, when a natural pine tree grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide which contrasts with the production of artificial trees that produce CO2. Furthermore, artificial trees are not compostable while real trees are, which could cause plastic pollution. However, most Stevenson-fake-tree-owners (41.5%) keep their tree for 10 or more years, which is a long enough period to justify the environmental costs of a fake tree.

So it is indeed a tie between artificial and natural trees with 1.5 points each. You can choose how to celebrate the holidays. There’s no clear answers, just keep the above points in mind.