Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

A Greener Christmas Tree?

What's better for the environment - a real Christmas tree or a fake one?

Answer (Published 12/2/2008)

This is a tough call. Most of the Christmas trees sold in the United States are grown on tree farms. For each one cut down as the holiday season approaches, at least two more trees are planted. Thus, they're considered a "renewable resource." Other pluses: they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, benefit the landscape, hold soil together and provide homes for animals and birds.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

However, most growers use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that can have a negative impact on wildlife, birds and water quality. These chemicals include glyphosate (Roundup), which has been associated with chest pains and nausea in humans and is deadly to many fish and beneficial insects; the organophosphates di-syston 15-G, which can cause convulsions and unconsciousness, and dimethoate, which can cause tremors and breathing difficulties. Most of these chemicals are washed away by rain or destroyed by ultraviolet light before you buy your tree so they're unlikely to cause human health problems, but their environmental impact remains.

As an alternative, you also could buy a living evergreen sold with its root ball so you can plant it outdoors after the holiday. To keep the tree alive, you have to allow it to acclimate for about a week in your garage or on a porch before bringing into the house. And then you have to limit the time you keep it indoors. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services advises checking with a local nursery about caring for a live tree in your area.

Artificial trees don't shed needles, and you can reuse them, but the needles are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a major source of dioxins. What's more, PVC sometimes is stabilized with lead, which can turn to harmful dust as fake trees get older. Supposedly, newer artificial trees are more environmentally friendly; their needles are made with polyethylene instead of PVC. A big selling point for fake trees is that they can be reused, which cuts down on waste. Another is that by buying one you help reduce the cost of energy used to transport trees to market. Overall, the longer you keep a fake tree, the more environmentally friendly it becomes.

If you buy a real tree, try to get it from a local farm that minimizes the use of chemicals or choose one from an organic Christmas tree farm. Visit Green Resources' Web site for a list of organic Christmas tree growers.

After the holidays, try to dispose of your tree through a local chipping or composting program. (Call your local trash collection office for information.) Or reuse the branches as compost around your garden plants. And don't burn your tree in the fireplace; the pitch content in bark and needles makes that hazardous.

Happy holidays,
Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here