Now that November has arrived, it’s time to start decking those halls and trimming those trees! If you’re having a hard time trying to decide between a real and fake tree this holiday season, let me make it easier for you. Go with the real one! You won’t regret it. Need more convincing than just my word? Read on for 5 major reasons why you should buy a real Christmas tree this year.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy A Real Christmas Tree
Given the choice between real and fake anything, real is the better option 99.999% of the time. Think about it. Would you rather have real chocolate or fake “chocolate-flavored” candy? Real coffee or a fake “coffee-flavored” drink? A real smartphone or a fake knock-off? Well, the same reason you’d choose real in all of those cases holds true for Christmas trees: it’s just better. How so? Keep reading to find out.
1. Real trees are much better for your budget …
Let’s start with two things that real trees are definitely better for: your wallet and the environment. Did you know that the average fake tree costs about $108 (plus at least $30 for a good Christmas tree storage bag) while a real one averages $75? Honestly, I think $75 is pushing it! I’ve bought real trees for around $30-40, and they were very big & full. Unless you really must have the Fraser Fir (typically the costliest since it’s the rarest), you can easily get a stunning tree for half the price of a semi-decent real one.
Now, you could, of course, argue that you only pay once for a fake tree, versus yearly for a real one. However, in my experience most fake trees last only 2-3 years before their “needles” look sad and drab, or they start to get stinky from sitting in your garage or basement for 11 months at a time. So, over the course of the years I think it averages out, really.
2….and the planet!
As for the planet, there is some debate as to whether they’re supremely better for the planet, just a little bit, or about the same as a fake tree. I agree with those who say they’re much better. First, fake trees are made in factories, real trees are grown on farms. Did you know that the average Christmas tree spends 10 years growing and that there are currently more than 350 MILLION of them growing on farms across the US?
As Texas A&M explains, “Beyond converting carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen, Christmas trees filter water, reduce runoff and potential flooding, and provide homes, food, and protection for wildlife. They cool the average temperatures around them by almost 10 degrees, reduce erosion and pollution, and the wood is used to build homes and businesses.”
Also, fake trees get thrown in landfills, where they take years upon years to break down (if they ever do). As the National Christmas Tree Association explains, “If you wanted to recycle an artificial tree,” said Gray, “you would have to pull each individual needle off of the entire tree. Otherwise, you would have to throw it away, where it would remain in a landfill indefinitely.”
Real trees return to the land. If you live in a woodsy area, you can just throw them out your back door and let animals use them for shelter. Even if you have it picked up for disposal, it’ll become mulch and compost. You tell me which one sounds better for the planet?
3. Picking out a real tree is a wonderful family tradition
While I suppose you could turn picking out a fake tree into a fun family outing, heading to your local mass-market chain store and fighting crowds to pick out the nicest plastic tree just doesn’t have the same charm as heading to nature to choose the perfect real tree. Besides, unless you really don’t like the planet, you shouldn’t be picking out a new fake tree every year, anyway, because that means you’re throwing out a ginormous hunk of plastic annually.
Whether you shop from a small tree farm or head out into the woods to cut down your own (where allowed, of course), real tree shopping is the stuff that family memories are made of. The brisk air mingles with the aroma of Douglas Firs, Blue Spruces, & Scotch Pines to create a smell that is unique to Christmas tree shopping. You can’t find that in a store.
Plus, you can start decorating it almost as soon as you get home. Just snip the twine holding the branches up, pop it in the tree stand, and you’re ready to go. Try getting a fake tree up in as little time! If it comes pre-lit, expect to spend an hour figuring out where all the strands connect (often only to discover that one of the strands is busted!).
4. Real trees help farmers & small businesses
A real tree doesn’t just benefit you; it also helps many other small businesses and families. From the farmer who raised it to the owner of the nursery or tree farm that sold it, your purchase has a very real impact on the lives of other families. In addition to the farmers and their families that grow the trees, according to Texas A&M, the real Christmas tree industry employs roughly 100,000 people.
Yes, you could argue that factories that make fake trees help feed families since they employ real people, too. However, the bulk of your purchase goes directly towards lining corporate pockets, not towards putting food on tables and gifts under trees of the people who actually do all of the work.
5. Real trees smell like “Christmas” in a way that fake trees never will
If all of that isn’t enough to convince you to buy a real Christmas tree, perhaps this last one will! Nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever smell exactly the way a real tree does. You can buy all the chemical-loaded & chemical-free sprays in the world, light every “Holiday Woods” candle, or even load that plastic monument up with Pine Scotch essential oil ornaments and it will never, ever, ever smell like a real Christmas tree.
That smell, by the way, has some terrific benefits. It’s a great stress reliever! The Japanese even have a ritual around it called shinrin-yoku. It’s basically the act of taking a walk through a pine forest to help clear your mind. Sure, you can get some of those benefits from the essential oils, but you don’t really get the full experience. See, part of the reason pine is so beneficial for stress is because of the memories it invokes. When most of us smell pine, we’re reminded of decorating the tree with our families, getting up early to discover what’s been left beneath it, and just gathering in the living room to spend time together. That natural aroma is in the background of nearly every happy holiday memory. You just can’t get the same effect from a bottle.
More reasons to consider a real Christmas tree vs. an artificial one
If those top 5 reasons aren’t enough to make you want to head to a Christmas tree farm instead of a store this year, maybe these will do the trick:
- Fake trees are made from PVC and other compounds that can break down into toxic chemicals and worsen air pollution.
- Even scarier, many artificial trees use lead in the needles, especially if you’re buying a tree made in China (which is where most fake trees come from). I don’t think I need to remind you how toxic lead is to everyone in your family.
- Real trees aren’t any worse for allergies than fake ones. Researchers from St. Joseph’s University wrote, “From what we know about household allergens like mold spores, a house with a real tree does not usually show a higher rate of indoor air pollution than a house with an artificial tree, because mold spores found on live trees do not usually become airborne.”
- Real trees help preserve green space. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, they often grow in soil that doesn’t support other types of crops.
Frequently Asked Questions About Real Christmas Trees
Before you rush out to your nearest tree farm, let’s quickly go over some of the most common questions about real trees.
What is the most popular type of real Christmas tree?
According to Farmer’s Almanac, the Balsam Fir is the most popular real tree. Other popular varieties include the Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Scotch Pine, and Colorado Blue Spruce. These five also make up the list of the most fragrant real Christmas trees, which is probably why they’re so popular.
Which Christmas tree lasts the longest?
If you like to put your tree up the day after Thanksgiving and want to make sure it lasts until the New Year, your best bet is the Fraser Fir. As long as you take good care of it, you can expect it to easily last 6 weeks!
Which tree is the best for heavy ornaments?
If you’re planning to add heavy ornaments to your tree, stick with varieties from the fir and pine families (as opposed to spruce trees). The Fraser Fir wins in terms of the #1 strongest real Christmas tree, though. Thanks to its thick branches and sturdy needles, it can handle all of your heavier ornaments better than most other varieties.
What Christmas tree sheds the least?
All real trees shed, especially as they start to dry out. However, the Colorado Blue Spruce is one that sheds the least. The Scotch Pine is also a hearty tree that retains its needles for a long time.
Will there be a Christmas tree shortage again this year?
Yes, unfortunately, we’ll most likely have another Christmas tree shortage in 2023. Prices are also higher, sadly. If you’re thinking you’d be better off buying a fake tree this year, though, think again. They’re more expensive than ever, too.
How can I save money on a real tree?
Buying a real Christmas tree doesn’t have to bust your budget. Here are a few tips to help you save money:
- Get a Christmas tree permit from Recreation.gov to cut down your own for as little as $5 (this only works if you live near one of the parks that are participating)
- Go with one of the cheaper varieties. Generally, the most budget-friendly choices are often the locally grown varieties like Douglas Fir or Scotch Pine.
- Negotiate on the price of a “Charlie Brown” tree (one that isn’t quite as full as the others). You can always fill in the gaps with garland, lights, and ornaments.
- Go with a smaller tree than usual. As Larry Wilde said, ““Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”
- Shop around. Tree prices vary significantly from place to place, so you can save as much as $50+ just by comparison shopping.
It’s easy to see why a real Christmas tree is the better option. In fact, unless you’re allergic to pine trees (which, sadly, some people are), there really aren’t any benefits to choosing a fake tree. Yes, a real tree requires a bit more care than the fake version, but I think the pros definitely outweigh that single con, don’t you?