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2016-02-11 11:35:58
Christmas Trees: Real or Fake? Which One is Better


Every year, I have a few friends that insist on sparking the debate over Christmas trees. Which one is better, a real tree or an artificial tree? While I acknowledge most people make this choice based on their own personal opinions and preferences, it might be fun to really explore some of the details of the issue. 



Which one looks better, the all-natural version or the fake version? Take a look:
Oops, wrong picture. My bad. How about this one?
Aesthetically, well-trimmed real trees and high quality artificial trees are virtually indistinguishable. This is especially true since fake tree manufacturers started adding small imperfections into the design of the trees. They look really good, but not too perfect.


When we move to finances, there's a pretty clear winner. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the average cost of a tree in 2014 was $39.50, which would obviously have to be paid every year. There's also the cost of the stand for watering, a skirt to catch all the dead needles, and the cost of disposal. 
Compare that to the average cost of an artificial tree. According to the same organization, the cost of a fake tree is $78. Unless you're really into consumerism, an artificial tree will last anywhere from five to thirty years. 

Longevity Throughout the Season

The real thing is great when you first bring the tree home. The branches are firm and supple; there's very little drooping. As the season wears on, gravity takes its toll. You can try supporting the branches the best you can, but there's no escaping age. By the end of the season, the tree is virtually unrecognizable compared to how it looked in its youth. 
Fake trees, on the other hand, remain perky far longer. With care, they'll remain that way indefinitely. Even when the tree gets quite old, it still retains the look of a much younger tree.


Okay, this one's a little odd, but a lot of people really like the 'piney' smell of the real trees. I grew up in the sticks in rural Northern Michigan and spent countless hours roaming around coniferous forests. The smell of pine trees always brings back a flood of warm memories. With a real tree, you get a long-lasting pine air freshener that'll last the entire holiday season. With the fake tree, you get PVC carcinogens like such as dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, and even lead.


While we don't normally go around groping every tree we see to determine if it's real or fake, sometimes you get a chance to cop a feel. While it's a sometimes controversial opinion, I definitely prefer the feel of the real thing. The fakes are nice to look at, but touching them just feels... unnatural. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is something to seriously consider. 

Environmental Impact

As it turns out, scientists have actually studied this issue at length. One of the best studies was conducted by the American Christmas Tree Association. I know what you're thinking... how many damn Christmas tree associations are there?!? 
Anyway, their research found the issue boils down to how long you plan on keeping the artificial tree. If you're keeping it less than nine years, real trees have less impact. Longer than nine years? The artificial tree with have less impact.

I'm going to work off the assumption that most people are fundamentally kind of lazy and aren't going to bother replacing their artificial Christmas tree more than once per decade, so I'll give the win to the fake.


Based on this incredibly in-depth, scientific analysis of real versus artificial trees, I would say fake trees barely nudge out real trees. It's close, but the fact that the fake trees don't die is really the deciding factor.
What do you think? Real or fake? What are your experiences with either one? Has anything ever happened that made you chose one over the other?
Share your experiences in the comments section!
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