‘Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree’

Real Vs Artificial Christmas tree

It is the centerpiece of the biggest celebration of the year for many families: the Christmas tree, the focal point for parties and presents, decorated with your favourite ornaments and lights.

Some cherish the scent of a real tree and the tradition of bringing it home, while others prefer the tidier and easier option of the plastic variety.

But which is better for the environment?

Christmas is a time of year to share kindness and love, it brings excitement to children and is a special time for all to come together and make memories.

It is also the most wasteful time of the year; over the festive season, the UK creates 30% more waste than usual. 1 billion Christmas cards end up in the bin, 6 million Christmas trees are discarded, 40 million rolls of sticky tape used, 277,000 miles of wrapping paper thrown away, this is 90% of the way to the moon.

And where does this all go? Just because you put it in the bin, does not mean it just disappears. All this waste ends up in landfill!

12,000 tonnes of the total waste will be the 8 million Christmas Trees which people have bought specifically for the period.

14 per cent of people will even be binning their fake Christmas tree

Approximately 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts are discarded.

So how can we all improve these devastating statistics? And where do you start?

Let us begin with the simplest way we can all make a better choice.

When it comes to choosing your tree there are so many options available.

The least wasteful option is a living natural tree in a pot that you can keep for years.

Bringing it in your home for the festive period then looking after it through the year.

If you don’t have space for your own you can look to rent one in this article you will find tips on how this works and where to get one from.

If you rent a real Christmas tree, as opposed to buying one, it has many planet-friendly benefits, including:

  • You get to enjoy a healthy, real Christmas tree but do not have to worry about what to do with it afterward.
  • There is zero waste
  • In between Christmases, rented trees can be re-planted and cared for by the supplier, ready to use again next year.
  • The trees provide habitats for wildlife in between festivities.
  • The trees continue to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in between festivities.
  • You are supporting a local business.

Buying a real Christmas tree

Members of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association sell around eight million trees per year in the UK.

That is a lot of trees! However, Christmas trees are usually grown in specific tree farms, and while they are growing, help offset carbon in the atmosphere.

When buying a real tree, Friends of the Earth advises looking for one that is locally produced, or at least grown in the UK with a FSC certification to avoid emissions from transporting and importing.

Do not feel bad about cutting down a tree for the festive period. Christmas trees are crops grown on farms, like lettuce or corn. They are not cut down from wild forests on a large scale.

Real trees can be recycled in the garden after use.

There are many ways to use your Christmas tree and not send it to a landfill. As far as reusing the trunk of your Christmas tree, you can lay it on the ground to use as a rustic garden bed edging. (once you’ve trimmed all of the branches off of it, of course) use it as a support to grow vining plants or you could cut the trunk and make coasters or wooden Christmas tree decorations for next year.

The branches will make great mulch or compost after use. Used for garden habitat, If you do not have a garden, many waste companies will also do a Christmas tree pick-up in the new year so check with your local waste company to see if they do this, and what they do with them.

If you burn your Christmas tree on the bonfire, plant it or have it chipped to spread on the garden, that significantly reduces the carbon footprint by up to 80% or around 3.5kg CO2e (greenhouse gas emissions).

Burning the tree emits the carbon dioxide that it stored up when it was growing so there would be no net increase.

So before you get rid of your used Christmas tree there are many things you can do with it, including so many great ideas on the internet, I love the ideas on this blog ‘Herbal Ways to Reuse Your Christmas Tree’  take a look if you need a little more inspiration.

The debate goes on whether an artificial or real tree is more eco-friendly.

In the real vs. fake question it is said that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 12 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually.

The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.

Because of the material they are made of, most artificial trees are not recyclable and end up in local landfills.

It is the manufacture of the plastic tree, from oil, which creates most of its carbon footprint; around two thirds, according to Dr. John Kazer of the Carbon Trust. Another quarter is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree is made.

They are also often shipped long distances before arriving in the shop and then your home. Nearly 90% of them are made in China. They are manufactured using unregulated, dangerous levels of petroleum by-products (non-renewable resources) and chemicals. Many faux trees have been tested and show harmful levels of lead and arsenic.

A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in the landfill and more than 10 times that of a real tree that is burnt.

Most local authorities now offer a collection service for real trees which they shred and use on gardens and parks – the greenest way to dispose of your real tree.

Conclusion

I am sure this debate will continue for many years, but other factors to consider when choosing a tree include cost, effort required, fire safety, allergies and insects.

For me personally I love a real tree…

The look, texture and smell of the real tree that makes it so special

The process of buying a real tree, going out with your loved ones and selecting the perfect size, shape and colour for your home creates the most wonderful memories.

The answer lies in the tree’s carbon footprint, how many times it is reused and how you will dispose of it.

Still undecided? Ask yourself

Are you interested in supporting the local economy, reducing your carbon footprint and keeping plastic out of landfills?

The answer to this alone will determine which tree is for you and your family this year.

‘O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are thy branches’