Greenest Christmas tree - real, artificial or other? | Holidays | What you can do | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: Greenest Christmas tree - real, artificial or other?

Did you know that living Christmas trees can be planted in your yard? (Credit: ...love Maegan via Flickr)

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how green is your carbon footprint?

The question about the greenest Christmas tree has been one of considerable debate among environmentally conscious merrymakers for the past decade.

Both sides have made valid points: advocates of artificial trees take issue with the practice of cutting down trees in the name of festivity, whereas proponents of real trees argue that it's pretty much impossible for a plastic alternative to be green.

The research team at Ellipsos has provided a definitive answer. In its study, the real tree emerges victorious!

According to Ellipsos, the artificial tree has three times more impacts on climate change and resource depletion than the natural tree. That's assuming your artificial tree lasts six years. If your tree will last more than 20 years and if you'd have to drive a long way to buy a real tree, the opposite becomes true.

Regardless of whether you choose real or artificial, there are ways to make sure your evergreen is truly green:

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Real Christmas trees

  1. Buy locally.
  2. Choose trees from farms that minimize (or do without) pesticides and herbicides.
  3. Cut your own with a provincial permit, from lands that must be kept clear anyway. In many provinces, hydro right-of-ways have to be kept clear. This is a win-win way to meet that mandate.

Artificial Christmas trees

  1. Avoid PVCs — the grinchiest of plastics — that most artificial trees are made of. Not only are these hard on the environment, they're bad for your health.
  2. Make it last 20 years!

Should neither of these options live up to your desire for a truly sustainable celebration, consider a living Christmas tree.

Potted evergreens are just as festive as their cut counterparts! You can rent one which makes dealing with a potted evergreen a hassle-free option. You can also purchase a Norfolk pine to keep indoors, year round (and improve the air quality in your home). Or, start a Christmas tree forest.

How to care for a potted tree

  1. Don't keep the tree inside for more than a week (two max.)
  2. Water generously
  3. Place the tree outside in the yard until the spring thaw, then be plant it

Fellow Queen of Green Fran (with 20 years experience planting living Christmas trees) says:

"A living tree should never be in the house for longer than 7 days. Keep it in an enclosed porch where it will get light. If you need to keep it outdoors, then protect the root ball from freezing by mulching it in straw or leaves and but do not water (it will get enough water from the outdoors). If the root ball is wrapped in wire, make sure you remove the wire following its indoor stay so the roots don't get pinched. Trees should be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring."

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