Real or fake? The big tree debate continues!

Real or fake? The big tree debate continues!

The smell of fresh pine wins every time!

The Tree will be adding that last piece of magic to the festive celebrations in many homes this season, BUT that perennial question comes up again: "Do we get real or artificial?"We admit we're biased - we think there's only one contender, but let's check out the pros and cons on both sides, so you can make up your own mind.

Artificial trees

These come in many varieties, green plastic, aluminium versions, fibre optic branches, ready lit and increasingly realistic ones.


  • Long lasting. We only have to buy them once and they last for years - some for decades so they win on economy.

  • Convenient. We can pack and unpack them every year so no need to look any further than the basement or the attic. Lights may already be attached - plug in et voila!

  • No mess. No pine needles getting lost in the carpet and sticking in our socks months later.


  • Toxic. Most artificial trees are made from plastic (PVC) which is difficult to recycle and as they age can release the lead which was used as a stabilizer in the PVC. Scientific studies suggest that the lead in artificial trees may pose a health risk particularly for the young.

  • Carbon footprint. Most artificial trees are manufactured in China and their transport to the West means many air miles, increased carbon footprint and contribution to climate change. You can read more on that here.

  • Fire hazard. Artificial trees can be highly flammable, even though they are sprayed with flame retardant they can still burn and emit toxic fumes.

  • Looks. No matter how sophisticated, they just don't look or smell like real trees.

Real trees

These come in all different sizes and can be potted or chopped.


  • Look and smell amazing. There's nothing like visiting your local farm, garden center or market to pick your very own tree, followed by the glorious smell of fresh pine in the air. Oh and they look stunning compared to the plastic ones!

  • Good for our health and the environment. If the tree still has roots and is planted, or if it's been chopped down and is watered correctly and kept near the window so it can get light, real trees absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen but better yet they absorb some serious pollutants - yep, our very own personal air filter.

  • Sustainable. Most trees are sustainable. For every tree cut down regulations ensure that up to three seedlings are planted so that there is a steady and renewable supply each year. Buying locally will also reduce your carbon footprint. Tree plantations also provide an important habitat for wildlife.

  • Recyclable. Real trees once chopped are compostable, eco-friendly and can be used again in different ways. Tree mulch helps to conserve water, protect against frost and returns nutrients to the soil.

There are a number of projects that make good use of our trees once the holiday is over, converting them into electricity, building parks and making furniture. Here's three fun ways to reuse yours.


  • Expensive. Real trees can be expensive compared to plastic ones and unless your tree has roots you'll have to buy another one next year..

  • Need love and care. In order to maintain a real tree there are some basic ground rules; they need to be watered at least once or twice a week, depending on how much heating and how dry the air is in your home, it might need more than that. It needs access to daylight so that it can continue to produce oxygen.

Here's how to take care of your tree and if you're feeling brave a step by step guide - how to grow and care for pine trees.

  • Messy. Real trees will need to be sprayed to reduce needle drop - and even then it's likely that some needles will find their way into the flooring and you'll be still sweeping them up in May.

  • Toxic. There is an argument that real trees are farmed as an agricultural crop and so sprayed with pesticides and herbicides like most fruits and vegetables nowadays. If you want to avoid this you'd have to go organic which will push the price up significantly.

  • Fire hazard. Wood burns, and this risk increases as the tree dries out. Similar care needs to be taken with lights or candles.


A lot of pros and cons on both sides and a lot to think about, but we are still coming down on the side of real trees!

Note: if you're going to buy a real tree (and we hope you are) make sure it's farmed not from a forest!

If you want to receive more quality content like this straight into your inbox every fortnight sign up for our free newsletter (in box on the left) - and of course we will never share your details with anyone, ever :-)

footprint fake real recycle sustainable
login to comment