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Posted: 2018-12-05 17:23:00

It comes down to the plastic. I want as little of it in my life as possible.

Several weeks ago, a friend stopped me in a restaurant and asked, "Real or fake?" It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about, but then I replied, "Real." He looked surprised. "Not the answer I was expecting, but OK!" I told him to look it up on TreeHugger, but when I checked, I saw that the last article weighing the pros and cons of Christmas trees dates back nearly a decade. It's time for an update.

I am a dedicated real-tree buyer for a number of reasons. Back in 2009, Pablo Paster calculated the embodied carbon emissions to be about 57 kg for a fake tree weighing 35 kg on average. (That does seem like an excessively heavy tree.) By contrast, a 7-foot Douglas fir generates 11.6 kg of CO2 if it biodegrades or burns – but, as Paster writes, "because this carbon was originally removed from the air (sequestered), the real tree can be considered carbon neutral because it does not add more greenhouse gasses than it removes."

Numbers tell a valuable story, but there are other factors to consider as well. For me, the most appealing aspect of a real tree is that it's not made of plastic. I make a point of minimizing plastic wherever possible in my household, so to bring a big plastic tree into my house goes against every other effort that I make on a daily basis.

I try to buy things that I know can be recycled or rotted at the end of their life cycle, and fake trees are notorious for not meeting these requirements. Real trees, on the other hand, are often collected by city programs and turned into mulch. Sometimes they're used to prevent beach erosion. They can be used as firewood for a backyard campfire. Most importantly, over time they will biodegrade fully without leaving toxic microplastics in their wake.

That leads to my next point, which is that real trees are healthier. The vast majority (80%) of artificial trees are made in China, where environmental regulations are notoriously

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