Fresh Cut Christmas Trees: Good for the Environment and the Economy

Posted: December 15, 2014

Some people think it is wasteful and harmful to the environment when Americans cut down and use 30 million live trees to celebrate Christmas...

Their concern for tree loss is understandable, but it is important to understand that there are over 350 million Christmas trees growing on farms across the United States as sustainable crops like corn, pumpkins or tomatoes. In 2012 alone, over 46 million Christmas tree seedlings were planted on farms where they will be grown, sheared and protected from insects and diseases for 6 to 10 years before they are ready for sale. While those trees are growing they consume large amounts of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases that are warming our planet), produce oxygen, prevent soil erosion, capture and reduce storm water runoff that can cause stream flooding, and provide habitat and winter cover for many wildlife species. Better yet, they keep local working farms alive and profitable. There are more than 12,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States and in 2009 Pennsylvania tree farmers had over $19.3 million in sales, accounting for 7.8% of the national market. Nationally over 100,000 people are employed full or part-time by the Christmas tree industry.

Once the holidays are over, 93% of real Christmas tree consumers recycle their tree in community recycling programs, their garden or backyard. Those trees become mulch, compost or habitat for wildlife and fish (when placed in ponds).

Now compare that to artificial trees. The first artificial tree was made largely of aluminum and was manufactured in Chicago in 1958. Today, most artificial trees are made from PVC plastic with 85% of them being manufactured in China and shipped thousands of miles across the world to a retail store in the United States. Those artificial trees do not provide oxygen, soils stabilization or wildlife habitat; although we might be able to recycle the plastic at some point. In 2011, Americans purchased 9.5 million artificial trees, helping China’s economy.

So this holiday as we purchase many of our electronics, toys and decorations that were manufactured in China or elsewhere, consider taking the family on an outdoor adventure to buy an American-grown fresh cut tree from a local farm. It really does help our economy and our environment.

More information about selecting and caring for your cut Christmas tree

Contact Information

Vincent Cotrone
  • Extension Urban Forester, Northeast Region
Phone: 570-825-1701