Home & Garden

Your Christmas tree: Real or artificial?

Shopping for a Christmas tree. Image by: Getty Images Author: Frankie Flowers

Home & Garden

Your Christmas tree: Real or artificial?

Frankie Flowers weighs the pros and cons of each side of the Christmas tree debate.

Around this time each year, the same debate rages in the Ferragine household: Are we going to get a fresh-cut tree for Christmas or invest in an artificial one?

Let's take a closer look at the factors we should all consider before making the single biggest decorating decision of the season.

• Convenience
Winner: Artificial
Today's artificial trees are available prelit, are easy to assemble and take down, and, with no need to water or sweep up those pesky needles twice a day, are virtually maintenance free. With two children under the age of four at home, this kind of convenience is a major selling point for me.

• Environmental impact
Winner: Fresh-cut

Fresh-cut Christmas trees are grown to harvest, which means they're replanted annually to ensure further crops in the years ahead. Studies have shown that one acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirement for as many as 18 people, while also helping to filter air, removing upwards of 13,000 kilograms of airborne pollutants per year. What's more, fresh-cut trees are biodegradable, while their nonrecyclable artificial counterparts will ultimately end up in landfills.

• Safety
Winner: Artificial

If sufficiently watered, fresh-cut trees can be perfectly safe, but allow them to dry out and they can be a potential fire hazard. To further reduce the risk of a Christmas tree fire, opt for the new cool-to-the-touch LED lights and always be sure to keep fresh-cut trees far away from open flames and sparks, including lit candles and fireplaces.

• Price
Winner: Tie

Fresh-cut trees can cost as little as $10 or as much as $300, depending on species and size. Artificial trees range from $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on the tip count, quality and size. After a quick calculation to average the price of an artificial tree over the number of years you expect to use it, you'll likely find the cost of this option is similar to the cost of a real tree.
• Appearance
Winner: Tie

When it comes to lifelike appearance, artificial trees have improved by leaps and bounds. Just be aware that a realistic look is often reflected in the price tag.

• Fragrance
Winner: Fresh-cut

Need I say more?

Poll results
Earlier this year, we asked: Which type of tree did you choose last Christmas? Here's what you had to say.
• Artificial tree 58%
• Fresh-cut tree 29%
• No tree 13%

Celebrating a handmade Christmas? Try these pretty ornaments to hang on your tree:
Christmas ornament craft: A pretty addition to your Christmas tree
How to make a bedazzled star Christmas tree ornament

This story was originally titled "Real Versus Replica" in the December 2011 issue.

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Your Christmas tree: Real or artificial?