Fake vs. Real Christmas Trees: What You Should Know

Split-screen image of artificial Christmas trees and chopped-down real Christmas trees
Which is better: an artificial Christmas tree or a real one? That depends on your needs. (DepositPhotos)

Faux or real: this debate returns every fall when families decide to buy a Christmas tree.

But whether you purchase an artificial tree or a real one, each option has its pros and cons — here are five factors to consider.

Weigh them carefully to determine which kind of tree makes sense for your home.

Real Christmas trees with price tags
Real Christmas trees are more expensive in the long run because you have to buy a new one each year. (DepositPhotos)

1. Cost.

Who doesn’t love to spend less money if they can help it?

Well, when you buy an artificial tree, you just have to buy it once, and that same tree will last for several years — maybe even decades!

On the other hand, if you buy a real tree, year after year — for decades — you could spend thousands of dollars. That money could have gone toward a child’s college fund, a nice vacation, or an emergency savings account.

So, if you want to save money in the long run, the choice is clear: go faux.

Fake Christmas tree in living room
Artificial Christmas trees are the most user-friendly option because you just unpack them and display them. Some fake trees even come pre-lit! (DepositPhotos)

2. Convenience.

 There’s a clear winner if you’re judging artificial and real trees by convenience alone.

Artificial trees don’t make a mess like real trees; you don’t have to worry about tracking pine needles into the house or getting sap on your hands, floors and furniture.

That’s the beauty of a fake tree: You just pull the flat-pack box from storage, unfold the tree, and watch it transform into the same shape, year after year.

A fake tree is convenient from the get-go because you never have to compete with other shoppers on a lot looking for that ‘perfect tree’; it’s not messy; and it’s the fastest option to set up, especially if you have a pre-lit one.

So, if you want the fastest and easiest option, again, go faux.

Wrapped real Christmas trees with trunks showing
Real Christmas trees can be repurposed as mulch and fish habitat after you use them. (DepositPhotos)

3. Eco-friendliness

It’s easy to look at an artificial Christmas tree and think it’s an efficient alternative to a real tree, but have you ever thought about what that ‘tree’ is made of?

Most artificial trees are made of steel and PVC plastic — the same stuff used to make construction pipes and medical devices. This is problematic because a fake tree is not biodegradable or recyclable, and discarding one sends plastic to the landfills.

Your best bet is to sell a fake tree (if high end) or donate it (if average) when you’re ready for something new. Recycling is possible if you strip the tree down to its metal parts and discard the ‘green’ stuff, but let’s face it: most people probably won’t do that.

Real trees, on the other hand, are a green option in more ways than one. You can chop them into firewood, create mulch from them or dump them (after removing their ornaments and lights). They provide habitat for fish and attract algae for food.

So, if the environment is your biggest concern, real is the way to go.

Fake Christmas tree with ornament hanging on branch
Artificial Christmas trees may contain toxins you don’t want in your home. (DepositPhotos)

4. Health

The PVC plastic in artificial trees could expose your family and pets to toxins such as lead and gases called volatile organic compounds. You may have heard that it’s important to avoid paint with VOCs, so why get a tree that has them?

Now, there’s a solution for controlling these toxins, and that’s to pull a fake tree out of the box and air it outside a few days before bringing it indoors.

You can also look for artificial trees made of polyethylene, a much stronger plastic unlikely to release toxins. And you can buy a new artificial tree every 10 years to reduce the risks.

Either way, check an artificial tree’s label to see what it’s made of, and then make an informed decision.

If your biggest concern is health, then a real tree carries the least risk.

Cutting down Christmas tree at lot
Real Christmas trees are the best option to support small businesses in your community. (DepositPhotos)

5. Economy

While artificial trees are cheaper in the long run, purchasing a real tree may be better for your community.

That’s because the rapidly increasing popularity of mail orders and fast deliveries means many artificial tree purchases send dollars to different cities, states and even countries.

On the other hand, Christmas tree lots employ people who grow the trees and sell them. Purchasing a real tree locally sends your dollars to your community and boosts the local economy.

If supporting the local economy matters to you, then you should get a real tree.

These are just some factors to consider in the great ‘faux or real’ debate.

Did other factors sway your decision? If so, share them in the comments!


  1. Yes, a fake tree is more convenient. That is until one or more of the light strings goes out and you spend hours trying to determine why, to no avail. Then you have to remove the entire string by trying to find the ends of it then undoing many, many knots and twistings until your fingers throb and most of your nails are broken. Then you have to drive all over town trying to find a light set with the proper length, number of bulbs, and colors that match the other strings on the tree. Next, install the new string by twisting and knoting it and try to get the end to meet the connection to the next string. It will take two or three tries. The best solution is to get an artificial tree with no built in lights. Buy separate light strings and remove them each year.

    • Artificial trees definitely have their unique challenges, Papa.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Today’s Homeowner community!


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