For many of us, celebrating the holidays without a Christmas tree at home is a fail. However, each year comes the dilemma whether to buy a real tree or an artificial tree.
You imagine an artificial Christmas tree as cheap, tacky junk. It doesn't smell, it's symmetrical, cut out like a picture, and made of plastic. You remember it as poor imitations of childhood Christmas trees that were falling apart under the weight of decoration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Forget about stereotypes and look around. Thanks to today's technology and the work of Christmas design specialists, an artificial Christmas tree can become a work of art. The models available in the stores look like they were just cut from the forest. Dense needles, solid construction and high quality materials are essential for any artificial Christmas tree.
Before the invention of the artificial Christmas tree, there was only one choice - the real tree.
Origin of the artificial Christmas tree
In connection with the ongoing seasonal cutting of coniferous forests over the years, the Germans initially introduced a legal ban on having more than one tree in the house, but eventually invented artificial Christmas trees in 1880s. The first prototypes were made of goose feathers that were dyed green and then attached to a wire branch or a wooden frame.
In the 20th century, artificial Christmas trees were made of various other materials.
In 1930s, in the United States, an artificial tree made of green colored animal hair was invented. The company used the same technique as for toilet brushes. For some time, these trees were very popular. Such spruces had an advantage over earlier feathers: heavy ornaments could be hung on them and they were not so flammable.
Also in the US, between 1958 and 1965, trees made of aluminium were very common.
Then came the era of the plastic Christmas trees produced from PVC. Artificial trees made of bristles were replaced with aluminium trees which began to be produced in the 1970s.
An original and patented in the US idea is a Christmas tree made of fiber optics, which is two in one - branches and lighting.
These days, an increasing number of people, especially in countries like (according to Google Trends) the US, Brazil, south-east Asian countries and some European countries, prefer to celebrate with an artificial Christmas tree.
Let’s see why artificial Christmas trees are becoming widely popular. Here are the advantages:
Without a doubt, we can purchase a live tree much cheaper than a fake one. But it's just an apparent saving, because you will have to spend money to replace it every year. So in the long run, buying an artificial Christmas tree is more profitable. We pay for a fake tree only once and then we can use it again and again for many seasons.
Their easy maintenance is also appealing to consumers. Fake trees are easier to maintain as they don’t require watering. They don’t leave their shed needles and sap all over the floor which requires constant cleaning up. They can also be kept clean and tidy without any problem.
You don’t need to go out, suffering in the cold and spending your entire day searching for your perfect Christmas tree. A pre lit artificial tree from last year will do!
▸Convenient to transport
Transportation from tree farm to home isn’t an issue. Artificial trees come in a compact cardboard box that easily fits in most cars instead of tied to the roof.
The advantage of an artificial Christmas tree is that it is durable, can’t be worn down very quickly and thus, it can be used multiple times. More durable tree means it’s not easily deforming as a result of subsequent assemblies and unfolding. By reusing the tree for many seasons, we are saving the real trees from being cut down each year.
▸Choice of appearance
When you opt for an artificial Christmas tree, you can also conveniently decide on its size and dimensions as well as on the imitation of the species. These days, various tree designs are available on the market, both in terms of height and the spread of the branches, so you are able to find a symmetrical, well-arranged tree.
Remember that it is worth measuring your living room well in advance so that your tree does not overwhelm the décor and dominate the entire room!
When calculating the height of the tree, consider that you need to leave some space to attach the star or spike at the top.
Also note that in a fake tree you can decide on the arrangement of individual branches. You can shape their appearance to fully match your vision of the perfect Christmas tree. It’s a good idea to also check the number of branches provided by the manufacturer. The more they are, the more dense the tree will be. Before buying, just pay attention to how much you will actually be able to influence the arrangement of the twigs.
Usually, good quality artificial trees are flame retardant. So you don’t need to worry too much if you put the tree too close to a heating source. However, always check the manufacturer's label for safety and care instructions.
But apart from the great benefits of choosing an artificial Christmas tree, what are the problems? Clearly, just like any other product, artificial trees also have their drawbacks. Here they are:
▸Non-recyclable and non-biodegradable
Currently, artificial trees are manufactured mainly with metals (steel), polyethylene, and PVC.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) allows for a perfect needle imitation, however it is a petroleum-derived plastic that is non-biodegradable.
Another popular material used for tree production is PE plastic (Polyethylene). From a distance, these types of fake trees are almost indistinguishable from the natural ones.
In addition, many older types of trees that were produced in the past many years, may contain lead which was used as a stabilizer during the manufacturing process. This can result in lead poisoning.
The trees bought in stores are made of plastic which is non-recyclable and have a very lengthy process of their decomposition.
▸Harmful environmental impact
The very process of producing the artificial Christmas trees has a bad impact on the environment. It is even worse after use.
After these trees reused for multiple seasons have been disposed off, they will be decomposing in landfills for centuries, even up to 500 years!
PVC, a material that decays over several hundred years is extremely harmful to the environment. It pollutes the environment causing harmful chemicals to spill into water, air and soil.
During the production of fake trees, large quantities of crude oil, chemicals, metals, electric energy and water are being used. The side effect of the production is air and water pollution. It has been estimated that more than 22 lb (10 kg) of carbon dioxide is emitted into the environment during the manufacturing process of components that make up a medium-sized plastic tree. The production of a plastic tree is very energy consuming.
And later, when we burn a Christmas tree after several years of use, poisonous fumes get released into the atmosphere.
Artificial trees are made from PCV foil which is imported from Asia, mainly from China. According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), about 85% of artificial trees sold in the US are imported from China.
CO2 emissions associated with shipping from China and taking it to the store add to their overall environmental footprint.
The carbon footprint can then reach the value that a 20-watt bulb consumes within 6 weeks of continuous lighting. It is a lot. And when you count how many such Christmas trees need to be produced to meet the needs of the market and what the cost to the environment means, the numbers are getting staggering.
Obviously, we take the price into consideration as well. In terms of prices, artificial Christmas trees are not the cheapest. A well-made artificial tree can be quite an expense for some of us.
The odorless artificial Christmas trees, although being created more and more beautiful and more natural looking, don’t bring the real, festive atmosphere to the house, which provides the fresh, natural resinous smell floating in the rooms. They will never replace the unique aroma of an authentic Christmas tree.
You’ll need to find the storage space (for example in the garage or attic) in order to put it away and store it indoors for 11 months until the next season. Sometimes space availability in your house might be an issue, particularly if you live in a small apartment. Also, the folded tree won’t fit easily back into the box once you uncoil its branches.
▸Can be messy
Artificial trees are also considered to be less problematic since they don’t lose needles. However, that’s not always not the case. In reality, poorly made, cheap Christmas trees lose their fake needles very quickly.
Especially children can get sad and disappointed with a fake tree. Some of the artificial trees are truly magnificent – they look ideal from a distance. But when you get a bit closer, you see what they really are: fakes. And that’s a big let-down.
As you can see, the quantity of the disadvantages of having an artificial Christmas tree is on a par with the quantity of their advantages.
When choosing an artificial tree, it is important to buy only those that are recyclable. Assuming their long-term use, it’s better to invest in a high quality, durable Christmas tree.
However, everyone chooses what, from their point of view, has more desirable qualities.