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Real or fake? Which Christmas tree is better for the environment?

Almost half of people polled in Ontario said they believe real Christmas trees are the best choice for the environment, as opposed to one third who said they thought that artificial trees were better.

Almost half polled said they believe real Christmas trees are the better for the environment

According to a new survey, Hamiltonians believe real trees are a more environmentally friendly choice than artificial ones. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Would you rather the piney smell of an authentic Christmas tree, or the convenience of an artificial one?

Well, according to a new poll from an advocacy organization that represents tree growers, Hamilton prefers real trees — at least on an environmental level.

The debate over the environmental virtues of artificial trees versus real trees is a perennial one, and with its poll, Forests Ontario is testing current opinion on the choice while making the case for its members.

According to its survey, people from Hamilton said they are more likely to buy a real Christmas tree for the sake of the environment than an artificial one, The Hamilton/Niagara and central Ontario areas polled the highest when asked if real trees were the most "environmentally friendly choice," says the organization that says it is “dedicated to the renewal and stewardship of Ontario forests.”

Almost half of people polled in Ontario said they believe real Christmas trees are the best choice for the environment, as opposed to one third who said they thought that artificial trees were better.

The 1,000-person survey was conducted by Oraclepoll Research between Nov. 10 and Nov. 13. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the GTA (excluding Toronto) was the only region of the province that favoured artificial trees over real ones.

Farmers prize sustainability, CEO says

“It is encouraging to see people’s awareness about the benefits of real Christmas trees trending in the right direction,” said Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario in a press release. “Christmas trees are planted and harvested by hundreds of farmers across Ontario, who place a priority on long-term sustainability. They are managed in a similar fashion to the local crops that we find on our plates.”

In the debate, artificial tree advocates take issue with cutting down trees for the holidays, while the other side argues it's impossible for a plastic alternative to be green and that newer renewable growing methods make them an environmentally friendly choice.

According to Ellipsos research, in a study cited by the David Suzuki Foundation, real trees are better for the environment — unless you really make that artificial tree last.

According to Ellipsos, artificial trees have three times the impact on the environment than natural trees, assuming your artificial tree lasts about six years.

But if you can manage to keep that artificial tree going for 20 years or so, and if you'd have to drive a long way to buy a real tree, artificial becomes the more environmentally friendly choice.

The environmental footprint of the holidays

Forests Ontario says there are plenty of benefits of real Christmas trees. One acre of Christmas trees gives off enough daily oxygen for 18 people, the trees act as a “carbon dioxide sink” and are totally biodegradable, the organization says.

“In comparison, artificial trees are non-biodegradable, their manufacturing process requires large amounts of fossil fuels, they eventually end up in landfills and are often foreign-made,” Forests Ontario said in a press release. “The transportation of artificial trees halfway around the world adds significantly to their overall environmental footprint.”

Ontario has over 600 farmers who produce more than one million Christmas trees each year, the organization says.

What about you, Hamilton? Do you prefer a real or artificial Christmas tree?

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