The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

We weigh the pros and cons to help you decide.

By Emily Main

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Ditch the toxic fake plastic trees and opt for the real deal this Christmas.If opting for a fresh Christmas tree over a fake one is a no-brainer in your mind, you're at odds with a majority of the public: Approximately 60 percent of Americans set up fake trees for the holidays, according to a 2004 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post. But—popularity aside—which is the healthier, more ecofriendly choice?

The Pros & Cons of Fresh Christmas Trees

Pros: Few Christmas trees come from forests anymore. Virtually all of them are grown on plantations, and those plantations are located in all 50 states, making fresh Christmas trees easy to find locally. Buying real trees helps support small local farmers, and at the end of the holiday season, the trees can be mulched up and used to feed plants or find some other environmentally friendly purpose. In Louisiana, conservation groups use leftover Christmas trees to bolster coastal wetlands that have been eroded by hurricanes, and in Illinois, they are used to provide nesting habitats for herons.

Cons: Those real trees have real pest problems, and are usually grown with pesticides that are toxic to wildlife and, in some cases, to people. The most commonly used pesticide is Roundup, which is toxic to some birds and fish and was recently discovered to be toxic to human cells due to all the inert ingredients used. The Environmental Protection Agency has banned indoor use of some of the pesticides used on Christmas trees, such as chlorpyrifos and malathion, which damage human nervous systems.

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