New Study Measures Impact of Christmas Trees on Mother Nature
If reused for five years, artificial Christmas trees are the better environmental choice, according to American Christmas Tree Association
Los Angeles, Calif. (November 15, 2018) – A new study released by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) provides an in-depth analysis of the environmental impacts of real and artificial Christmas trees. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), conducted by WAP Sustainability Consulting, compares the most common artificial Christmas tree with a similar real option. The report concludes that when comparing the two types of trees, artificial trees have a more favorable effect on the environment if reused for at least five years.
“We encourage consumers to choose whichever Christmas tree best fits their lifestyle,” said Jami Warner, Executive Director of ACTA. “Studies have shown that most artificial Christmas trees are used for an average of 10 years – more than meeting the LCA’s recommendation of five or more.”
The study takes into account multiple aspects of the procurement of both types of trees based on the same size comparisons of 6.5 feet. Artificial trees were looked at for factors such as manufacturing and overseas transportation. Planting, fertilizing and watering were taken into account for real trees, which have an approximate field cultivation period of 7-8 years. The study evaluated various end of life options including landfilling, composting and incineration at the end of their usage. When comparing the life cycles of the two trees on an annual basis, meaning that each type of tree is used and disposed of within one year, the real tree was found to have a more favorable environmental impact. However, the study notes that if an artificial tree is reused over the course of approximately five years, the artificial tree has a more favorable environmental impact. In either instance there’s the environmentally significant issue of “tree miles” – essentially how many miles the tree traveled to get to a consumer – which includes transporting both types of tree from factory or field to the point of sale and the consumer’s personal travel to purchase the tree.
“We wanted to provide consumers with a comprehensive look at the environmental impacts of both types of Christmas trees so they can make an informed purchase,” noted Warner.
ACTA suggests that if you plan to replace an artificial tree, donate it before you dispose of it. If you choose the real option, be sure to discard the tree correctly by checking with your local waste authority.
To view a copy of the full LCA report, click here.
To view an animated video explaining the LCA study findings, click here.
About the American Christmas Tree Association:
The American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help families choose the best Christmas tree and to support the many well-loved Christmas traditions around Christmas trees year-round. More information can be found at www.christmastreeassociation.org
About WAP Sustainability Consulting:
WAP Sustainability provides clients with the information and tools they need to understand sustainability with credibility and measurability. Our services are driven by sound scientific data and an in-depth understanding of each client’s core business. Headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, WAP Sustainability helps a global roster of publicly traded, consumer product and building product companies as a respected technical sustainability resource. Learn more at www.wapsustainability.com.
William Paddock – Co-Founder & Managing Director, WAP Sustainability Consulting
Patrick Harbison – PHPR