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During the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree, you may consider an artificial tree instead of ordering a real tree. Without thinking, it would seem that buying an artificial tree offers a good bang for your buck and is better for the environment. After all, chopping down a real tree can't be better than reusing an artificial tree, right??? It couldn't be further from the truth...

Artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC is a petroleum based plastic that creates hazardous byproducts during the manufacturing process. Some manufactures add other hazardous materials to the needles to make them more realistic. These needles can fall off and be eaten by animals or leave a dust that gets on hands and into bodies of your children. Most artificial trees are produced overseas and use immense resources for production and shipment to the United States. On average, you will likely be disposing of the artificial tree in a landfill 5 to 7 years later. Artificial trees are not biodegradable, and may in fact leak toxins and oil byproducts into the soil and water table.

Real Christmas trees on the other hand are very environmentally friendly. They also offer a distinctly pleasant smell. The first misconception is that harvesting a tree is bad for the environment. In reality, tree farms typically plant 2-4 new trees per tree cut, much like any other crop. Christmas trees naturally help absorb carbon dioxide and keep the oxygen-dioxide cycle going. Real trees stimulate the local economy, minimize transportation distances, thus creating a smaller carbon footprint.

Another common misconception relates to fire hazards. Studies actually show that when properly maintained, real trees that aren't dried out are less prone to fire than artificial trees. After all, artificial trees are made from oil.

Here is a video of a CNN report on the lead content of artificial trees and wreaths.

Here is a news article on the fire safety of artificial trees.

During disposal, real trees can be recycled and turned into mulch or used as a habitat for local wild life. Mulched trees replenish nutrients to the soil and prevent weeds and undergrowth in flower beds. Trees can also make an ideal home in a wild life preserves or for fish in a pond.

You can find information that either goes either way, but it seems to be pretty clear that in terms of eco-friendliness, real Christmas trees are the way to go.