Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Tree – Real or Fake?

T’was the week before Christmas, no decorations up – you are busy – you are rushed. You can’t be bothered. Then the kids start complaining.

The mess of a real tree or the old reliable fake tree from storage?

You toss the ideas around and figure the fake tree from the shed. Who wants pine needles everywhere, sure they smell is nice, but after a week the real tree starts to look decidedly tired. So out with the real, and in with the 20 year old antique!

My tree is 23 years old this year, and I gather many others have similarly geriatric trees, residing in their storage areas, be it in the shed or the roof space!

First a little history and then into the Bad 'V' Good of a each type of tree!

The first artificial tree originated in Germany, towards the end of the 1800’s and comprised of metal wire trees, covered in feathers, which often had been dyed green to imitate the colours of a real pine tree. In the 1930’s, the Addis brush Company (which also made toilet brushes) started making brush trees using the same machines as those that made the toilet brushes. This design was patented in the 1950’s. Since then artificial trees have grown in both size and quality.

So now, let’s look at the difference between the two – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Real Tree
Real Trees cost more, as they are purchased new each year
In the growing process, real trees absorb carbon dioxide, which is a good thing
Real trees MAY be more of a fire risk as they dry out and the lights are turned on
Real trees allow the scent of pine to permeate the house
Visitors to your house MAY be allergy to pine needles
Provides jobs in the growing, transportation and sale processes
Need constant tending, with water and pine needle pick-up
Has a limited indoor life span
Dispose of the tree can be a problem
Estimated Annual Contribution of Greenhouse gases is 3kg per annum

Fake Tree
The ongoing monetary cost decreases with each year of use
A slightly less of a fire risk than real trees – as branches are insulated
No smell
NO allergy concerns
No on-going job prospects, once the tree has been purchased
No tending required, once tree has been erected
No life-span restrictions – although disposal may be an issue if and when required
No immediate disposal issues
Some cheaper trees do look cheap, and visually worse than a ‘real’ tree
Time is required to assemble the tree and make it look good before decorated
To negate the environmental impact you need to keep your tree for 20 years, (average 6yrs)
Fake trees may contain toxic materials such as lead.
Estimated Annual Contribution of Greenhouse gases is 8kg per annum

There are pros and cons with both types of trees, like always convenience is a big factor in choosing which tree is right for you.

There is another option you could consider. If you have the room in your backyard, why not grow a potted pine, something like a Douglas Fir – which is a tree, that is quite rare. The only thing you have to remember is that the work of that Christmas tree is a weekly thing and not just once a year. It certainly is a feasible idea, just involved more work.

I prefer a fake tree – not just because of the cost, but it is simple and easy to erect, no chasing around, if I want to erect my tree at midnight on Christmas Eve, I can do that. A real tree you wouldn’t be able to do that.

Viva la tree – what are your thoughts? – Fake over Green? Green over Fake? Would love your input, perhaps you are making that choice as we speak? – Let us know – appreciated!


  1. I grew up with real trees and I can't stand them now. We have used the same fake one for about ten years. For two years before we had a decorated Norfolk Island Pine in a pot. This year we have a new second hand fibre optic tree. Very nice.

  2. Thanks for the comments Andrew!
    I had a real tree once, It was messy and the disposal side of things complicated the issue. I don't mind fake trees - at least they don;t need water and you can ignore them for 11 months of the year.
    A potted tree would be an option - but as we don't have a garden (we live on 5acres) we don't water anything - so it would probably die :(
    We are stuck with a fake tree!