Christmas tree (artificial)
|GHG Emissions Facts|
|Per 6.5ft unlit tree|
|Total:||18.58 kg CO₂e|
|Production:||12.51 kg CO₂e|
|Distribution:||4.22 kg CO₂e|
|Usage:||0.88 kg CO₂e|
|End of Life:||0.98 kg CO₂e|
|Per person annual emissions|
An artificial Christmas tree is an artificial tree, made to resemble a coniferous evergreen tree, that is intended to be decorated. Unless otherwise stated, the information in this article refers to a 6.5 ft unlit artificial tree imported from China. The life cycle carbon footprint or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of an artificial tree is 18.58 kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Artificial trees are used for an average of 6 years, and the estimated annual carbon footprint is 3.1 kg CO2e. Lead (Pb) in artificial trees is a significant threat to health, particularly in children.
Artificial Christmas trees are mostly composed of steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polypropylene (PP). The steel is used to form the artificial branches and poles, PVC is used for the needles and stands, polypropylene is used to assemble the branches and form part of the packaging. Additionally, artificial trees require cardboard for the shipping box.The PVC used in many products, including artificial Christmas trees, uses a significant amount of lead (Pb) as a stabilizer. Handling of the artificial tree results in lead exposure. Exposure to lead poses a significant threat to health, particularly in children. Greenhouse gas emissions from materials are included in the production statistics.
One of the most common artificial trees sold in the United States is manufactured in China. The production begins with molding and cutting plastic components, and the rolling, cutting, stamping, and pressing of steel. These components are then assembled into the trunk and branches of the artificial tree. Producing an artificial tree creates 12.51 kg CO2e of GHG emissions. These emissions include materials and packaging. The finished product weighs 5.1 kg.
Packaging for artificial trees include shrink wrap, paper, and cardboard. The retail boxes are made of cardboard and are packaged for shipping using polypropylene wrap and paper. Greenhouse gas emissions from packaging are included in the production statistics.
Artificial Christmas trees are transported by truck, ship, and sometimes train. The artificial trees manufactured in China are often transported by truck to the container ship in China, then by train or truck from the US port to the retailer. The artificial trees are estimated to travel 978 miles by truck and 7471 miles by ship before reaching the retailer. Distribution of the product is responsible for 4.22 kg CO2e.
The average lifespan of an artificial tree in North America is 6 years. Lighting and ornaments commonly used on Christmas trees are not included in this assessment. Carbon emissions for the use phase are the result of disposing of the retail packaging in a landfill. This produces 0.88 kg CO2e of GHG emissions.
End of Life
Artificial trees are composed of recyclable components, however the majority of artificial trees are landfilled because of a lack of infrastructure and consumer awareness. Transport and disposal of a artificial tree creates 0.98 kg CO2e of GHG emissions.
- Christmas trees - comparison of the environmental impacts of christmas trees
- Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of an Artificial Christmas Tree and a Natural Christmas Tree. PE Americas, Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2016. Archived
- "Artificial Christmas trees: how real are the lead exposure risks?." The Free Library. 2004 National Environmental Health Association 11 Dec. 2016 Full text
- Comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Artificial vs Natural Christmas Tree. Ellipsos Feb. 2009. Web. 11 Dec 2016. Archived