Public Insight Network

The Question Of The Day: Real Or Artificial Tree?

Christmas time means millions of Americans have a tree in their home. What differs is the type of tree they are displaying — real or artificial. Proponents of either tree can be strong believers in their choice.


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According to a consumer survey sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association, real Christmas trees regularly outsell artificial ones by a 3-to-1 margin. Last year, Americans bought nearly 30 million real trees and more than 9 million synthetic trees.

But a better indicator of America’s Christmas tree culture might be a study sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association. That study shows that about two-thirds of American households display an artificial tree this Christmas season, while only about 18 percent opted for a real tree.

Ricky Dungey is with the National Christmas Tree Association. He says you just can’t substitute a real fir or spruce in your house.

“You know, just having the experience of going out each year and starting your Christmas celebration by picking out a special tree. You just can’t replicate that if you pull a box of plastic down out of the attic.”

Jami Warner with the American Christmas Tree Association personally prefers artificial trees but she rejects the suggestion that her organization promotes the unreal kind.

“Buy the kind of tree that your children like, that your parents like, that you like, that’s tall or thin or fat or short or Charlie Brown tree, buy what you like. The only thing artificial about this so-called debate is the debate itself. There is no debate.”

Warner says Americans’ apparent preference for artificial trees has most likely to do with the fact that an artificial tree can be reused for many years, while real trees have to be purchased anew every year.

Dungey has a different view.

“All the environmental groups and every scientist says that using a renewable, recyclable, biodegradable plant is a much better choice than using a manufactured product made in a factory in usually China, shipped across the Pacific Ocean, where it will end up in our landfills, where it never decomposes.”

Patrick Leach, who lives in Missouri City, grew up with natural Christmas trees. But he’s had the same artificial tree since he lived in Indonesia in 1988 because he couldn’t find a real one over there.

“And now we’re at a stage where especially my oldest daughter, who is sort of the family nostalgian, if that’s a word, won’t let us get rid of it. I mean, it’s like, this is our tree, even though it’s getting kind of frazzled.”

Besides nostalgia, he cites cost and environmental concerns as his reasons to get another artificial tree if he ever retires his current one. But he says he’s flexible and not a fake tree advocate or anything.

Whatever the choice of a tree, it brings together many Americans who celebrate Christmas.

In this spirit: Happy Holidays.


Some people interviewed in this report were drawn from the public insight network, where listeners like yourself have signed up to be a resource for quality journalism. If you want to share your stories or expertise on a particular subject, sign up at