The Environmentally-Friendly Case for Live & Fresh-Cut Christmas Trees

Visiting a Christmas tree farm each year is a tradition many families hold dear. Courtesy of New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association

For many, the holiday season sparks the decades-old debate: fresh-cut or fake Christmas tree? While nothing beats the charm and authenticity of a real fir, balsam or spruce, there’s a lot to be said for the convenience of assembling an easy-to-manage, non-needle-shedding evergreen at a moment’s notice.

Some view an artificial tree as the more environmentally-friendly choice because it can be reused season after season, eliminating the guilt that accompanies the thought of chopping down a live tree year after year.

But, as Donna Allison Cole, executive secretary at New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association, explains, there are multiple reasons why real Christmas trees represent the more environmentally-minded option.

“Fresh-cut trees totally decompose,” says Cole, of Cole’s Country Tree Farm in Alexandria Township. “They don’t end up in a landfill for hundreds of years. Also, they can be reused as mulch.”

Because artificial trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable, once they’ve surpassed their usefulness to owners, they’re left to languish for centuries.

“Also, while they’re growing, Christmas trees are taking in carbon dioxide while emitting oxygen, as opposed to artificial trees, which may contain metal toxins like lead in the plastics,” says Cole, who adds that Christmas tree farms also help stabilize the soil, while providing a refuge for wildlife.

Christmas tree farms preserve open spaces while providing refuge for wildlife. Courtesy of New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association

Cole explains that real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, and, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Christmas tree industry put more than 100,000 Americans to work, making it an important part of the economy.

“Eighty percent of artificial Christmas trees are manufactured in China,” says Cole.

So consider your carbon footprint when considering what it takes to deliver all those fake firs to the U.S.

Visiting a Christmas tree farm each year is a tradition many families hold dear. Courtesy of New Jersey Christmas Tree Growers Association

Want to take your “green” one step further? Consider a living tree, complete with a root ball, that you can plant post-holiday. Yes, you’ll need something bigger than your average tree stand, obviously, but here’s a chance to start a great tradition while building a natural fence or just adding color to your landscape. Don’t have enough property? Donate your tree to a local park or open space. The Earth will thank you.

Visiting a Christmas tree farm is a way to create lasting holiday memories for families, the Growers Association notes. The following are several Garden State Christmas tree farms where you’ll find an environmentally-friendly evergreen:

Hidden Pond Christmas Tree Farm4 West Field Road, Mendham, 973-865-6362 or Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Plut’s Christmas Tree Farm: 220 Flocktown Road, Long Valley, 908-852-6669 or Open Thursday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wolgast Tree Farm and Apiary: 176 Bennetts Lane, Franklin, 732-873-3206 or Open Saturdays and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Dower Farm: 4 Todd Ave., Peapack, 908-781-6203 or Open Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wyckoff’s Tree Farm: 246 County Road 519 Belvidere, 908-475-4508 or Open Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Check out the NJ Christmas Tree Growers’ Association for additional tree farms.