A thorny choice: natural or artificial Christmas tree?

They come in green, in white, in blue. Some of them have that “new” smell; others smell “genuine.” Which one do you prefer: natural or artificial? We are, of course, referring to Christmas trees. There’s no lack of choice around this time of year, when everyone is doing their best to have their holiday season coincide with everyone else’s. But do you know which kind of tree is the most environmentally friendly?

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And the winner is…

No need to be on pins and needles any longer: consulting firm ellipsos, now called Ellio, which specializes in sustainable development, performed a life-cycle analysis to compare the environmental footprints of these two “competing products.” Their impact over each stage of their useful lives was analyzed. The result? The natural pine tree seems to be a greener choice than the artificial, unless the latter is reused for at least… 20 years. But hold on a second—there are some qualifications to that statement. Let’s take a closer look at the analysis.

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Shining light on Christmas trees!

Assuming both models are seven feet high, an artificial tree
has a six-year lifespan and is made is China, while a natural tree has grown in Quebec:

  • Both trees are almost identical in terms of impact on human health;
  • The artificial tree contributes about three times as much to climate change and resource depletion as the natural tree.

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The natural tree has another advantage:

its ability to sequester CO2 during its growth, which has a positive effect on climate change. Naturally!

But, the artificial tree is almost four times better for ecosystem quality than the natural tree;

In short, your natural Christmas tree’s CO2 emissions are equivalent to a compact car driving 125 km, versus 322 km for an artificial tree.

 

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About the Author
Sandra Bourret

Sandra Bourret has lots of research and development experience. She joined Cascades in 1997 and continues to be one of the company’s R&D specialists. She knows her pulp and paper, having worked in the field for more than 20 years. In addition, she holds a master’s degree in Pulp and Paper with a focus on life-cycle assessment (LCA). A true assessment professional, Sandra has completed no fewer than 7 LCAs and 2 carbon footprint since 2008. During this time, she has also participated in 9 other LCAs. “I like getting out of my comfort zone and thinking outside the box. Here at Cascades, we have developed LCA simplification methods that exist nowhere else. Nothing is more motivating than taking up new challenges as part of an organization that thinks and acts green!”

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