Christmas tree (natural)
|GHG Emissions Facts|
|Per 6.5ft Fraser fir (composted)|
|Total:||4.68 kg CO₂e|
|•||Production:||-9.13 kg CO₂e|
|•||Distribution:||2.68 kg CO₂e|
|•||Usage:||0.06 kg CO₂e|
|•||End of Life:||11.07 kg CO₂e|
|Per person annual emissions|
A natural Christmas tree is a coniferous evergreen tree, that is intended to be decorated. Unless otherwise stated, the information in this article refers to a 6.5 ft Fraser fir (Abies fraseri), without decorations or lights, grown in the United States. The life cycle carbon footprint or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a natural Christmas tree is dependent on the method used to dispose of the tree at the end of its life. A composted tree creates 4.68 kg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of life cycle GHG emissions. The life cycle carbon footprint of landfilled and incinerated trees are -3.13 and 5.12 kg CO2e respectively.
Inputs required for the production of natural Christmas trees include fertilizers, pesticides, seedling foil, tree pot, diesel fuel, and polypropylene string. Natural trees also require a tree stand made of 10% steel and 90% plastic.
The production phase of a natural Christmas tree has an overall negative carbon footprint because of carbon that is sequestered during the growth of the tree. The growth phase carbon footprint is -9.13 kg CO2e. From seed to harvest takes approximately 11 years for a 6.5 ft Fraser fir. The first 4 years of production take place in a nursery. After the trees have reached 40-50 cm they are transplanted in the fields where they will grow for approximately 7 years. Management of the trees in the field differs between farms. Grass between trees is often managed with chemicals such as glyphosate or mechanical mowing. Application of fertilizers, fungicides, and insecticides is also often done in this phase.
Natural Christmas trees are wrapped with polypropylene string for transport from the farm to the retailer.
Distribution includes truck transportation of the natural tree from the farm to the retailer and transportation in a personal car to the consumer’s home. This phase of a tree’s life cycle contributes 2.68 kg CO2e to the overall carbon footprint.
The use phase of a natural Christmas tree includes watering of the tree. A Fraser fir consumes 2 to 3 liters of water a day. The environmental impact of lighting and decorations is not included in this assessment. The use phase contributes 0.06 kg CO2e to the overall carbon footprint. 
End of Life
Natural Christmas trees are about 60% water and have a dry weight of about 6 kg. The method used to dispose of a tree has a significant impact on its carbon footprint. Natural trees sequester carbon during the production or growth phase of their life cycle. When a tree is landfilled only 23% of the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere. The remaining 77% of carbon remains sequestered in the landfill for more than 100 years. Incinerating and composting trees creates over three times more GHG emissions. The end of life GHG emissions for landfilled, incinerated, and composted trees are 3.26, 11.51, and 11.07 kg CO2e respectively.
- 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. 13 Dec. 2016. Archived
- Hinesley, Eric, and Gary Chastagner. "Christmas trees" The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks (2004): 650. Archived