What Kind of Christmas Tree is Best for the Environment? – terra20

3 comments / Posted by Andrea Tomkins

By Andrea Tomkins

I’m going to come right out and say it but I’m firmly on Team “Real Tree” when it comes to Christmas trees. Here’s why!

Of course, there are people who opt for artificial trees because of allergies, space considerations, but if you’re on the fence about whether to go for a real tree or a fake tree, it pays to do a bit of thinking first.

Artificial trees are made out of plastic (which is made from oil) and steel, and they’re usually manufactured overseas, which means they have to travel an extra long way to get to the end user. Some may argue that artificial trees are reused every year, and although that might be true for the most part, every single artificial tree ever made will eventually end up in a landfill for the next millenia. That’s not typically the case for a live tree.

A few other points to consider if you’re deciding if you’re on Team “Real Tree” or not:

  1. Live Christmas trees are a crop, and if you’re buying one from a lot, it’s most likely grown and harvested for this purpose on a tree farm.
  2. Christmas tree farms plant new trees to replace the ones they’ve cut and sold. More trees are a good thing! Trees help our environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
  3. A forest of live trees, even if they’re destined for someone’s living room, also provide shelter for wildlife while they’re in the wild.
  4. And as a bonus, a live tree smells amazing. Honestly, it can’t be beat. I bet it’s the largest natural air freshener you’ll ever display in your home!

If you want to be extra green with the purchase of your live Christmas tree, ask if your tree is locally-grown and make sure it’s composted when you’re done with it. Come January 1, the tree can either be mulched or chopped up for use in the garden or (at least in most Ottawa neighbourhoods) brought out to the curb like any yard waste for composting.

Some folks don’t like the needle drop that comes with a live tree, but I think having a real tree is worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to water it and vacuum up a few needles after the season is over.

If you are looking for a worthwhile place to purchase a Christmas tree in Ottawa, may I suggest buying one at The Royal Mental Health Centre? (Full disclosure, I work here!) It’s a major fundraiser. Christmas tree sales raise over $22,000 every year and every cent goes to patient care. Isn’t it nice to know your Christmas tree purchase will help others? The Royal’s Christmas tree sale begins on Saturday November 30, which is good news for the early birds who want to get a jump on the holiday season. Trees will be available for sale at The Royal (1145 Carling Ave.) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

I have three more ideas for you if you really want to go green with your Christmas tree this year!

  1. Consider buying a potted tree with plans to plant in the spring. You can decorate it with biodegradable decorations such as paper stars and popcorn garlands for the holiday season. My parents did this for a few years when I was young and we planted the trees in our cottage property. I always thought it was a cool idea although I’ve never done this myself.
  2. Or don’t buy one at all! I know some people like to put some evergreen branches in a big vase and decorate those instead. It saves space AND money too.
  3. Consider decorating an outdoor tree instead of an artificial or live tree that you keep indoors... but with the local wildlife in mind. Sliced fruit, homemade seed balls, pinecones smeared with suet and rolled in seed, and wreath-shaped feeders filled with peanuts, make lovely bird– and squirrel-friendly decorations. And instead of a star on top, some peanut butter on a bagel that’s dipped in sunflower seeds will make a lucky bird a welcome snack.

Here’s to a green Christmas this year!

About the Author

Andrea Tomkins

Andrea Tomkins is an informavore with a passion for social media and multimedia storytelling. She is the editor of a community newspaper in Ottawa as well as a freelance writer. She’s also is a veteran of the Canadian blogging scene.

First conceived in 1999, her blog – a peek inside the fishbowl – has been featured in notable publications such as the Toronto Star, Chatelaine, Canadian Family Magazine, and The Globe and Mail. Today, she loves to write about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, and good food.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @missfish


  • Posted On November 20, 2019 by Erin Forget

    Hi Paul, I work for terra20 and I confirmed with Andrea that the Royal Mental Health Centre gets their trees from a tree farm in New Germany, Nova Scotia.

  • Posted On November 17, 2019 by Laura Yaternick

    Really good article!
    I wonder if there are plastic trees made from recycled plastic? I haven’t been able to find one yet but it may exist out there somewhere.

  • Posted On November 17, 2019 by Paul McCloskey

    Thanks Andrea. Would you know the source of the trees being sold at The Royal Mental Health Centre?

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