Real trees grow in the ground for several years before they are cut (a rule of thumb is about one year in age for each foot of tree height), preserving our climate by absorbing carbon, helping keep our air and water clean, and providing habitat for animals.
Buying a real tree is patriotic too. The vast majority of Christmas trees today come from farms in the US. And for every tree they sell, farmers will plant one to three seedlings in its place, ensuring the sustainability of this industry.
Plastic trees are usually made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which is derived from petroleum. In other words, these bad boys are neither biodegradable nor easily recyclable. In addition, PVC sometimes contains lead, which, as the tree wears, can end up in the dust in your house.
Also, around 85% of all fake trees are made in China and shipped to the US on diesel-fueled ships. You would need to continue ornamenting your fake tree for at least 10 - but probably closer to 20 years - to compete with the carbon benefits of the real thing. And the truth is, most families only keep their fake trees for 6 years.
Besides, not even the highest quality air freshener, let alone a plastic tree, can replace that wonderful pine smell that is so symbolic of the holidays!
As with food, local and organic is best. Look for species of trees that grow naturally in your region, and check farmer's markets for local dealers.
New York, for example, is a big producer of Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir, white pine and blue spruce - all great choices. In New York City, you can find organic trees from Keith's Farms and locally grown trees from Van Houten Farms and Trumensburg Trees at the Union Square farmer's market. Van Houten Farms will also be selling at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn this December.
Here are some more resources to help you find a farmer's market or tree dealer in New York: