In January this year I posted about how sad I felt seeing all the used real Christmas Trees left outside homes waiting to be collected by our local council to be recycled.
It made me wonder about the environmental Pros and Cons of real trees and fake trees. Having a fake tree in the loft and having used this for over 10 years interspersed with real ones, made me want to find out which was best. There are 3 options if you want a tree inside this Christmas: Fake, a cut real tree or a pot grown real tree. Below I try to lay out the pros and cons of each.
Carbon Footprint: The Carbon Trust state that ‘An artificial tree needs to be used for 10 Christmases for it to have a lower carbon footprint than a real one’. But to keep their carbon footprint down ‘real trees need to be properly recycled, either by being chipped or burnt’. It seems that how the tree is disposed of is more significant that where it came from when it comes to offsetting the production. They have some great advice on how to reduce your carbon impact generally over Christmas here.
Food Miles: Most fake trees are made in China and shipped all over the world. A locally grown or sourced cut or pot-grown tree is the kindest route when thinking of transportation and there is nothing nicer than going out to choose your own tree. It’s also good to know that you are supporting local businesses and the communities around them. You can find a registered Christmas Tree Grower local to you on the British Christmas Tree Grower’s Association Website
Cost: One of the greatest benefits of an artificial tree is you can use them year after year. I love this article from The Daily Mail about a tree that has been used by the same family for over 120 years. Not sure my tree from B&Q will make it as a family heirloom!
Recycling: So, it appears from the comments from The Carbon Trust above that how recycling a real Christmas Tree is more important than the production process. So firstly, yes, my local Council take Christmas Trees from those registered with their Green Waste Scheme in January and compost them and I believe many other Councils offer this service in January. Other organisations also take them and recycle them for different purposes including The National Trust to support the dunes at Formby beach near Merseyside.
Most organisations agree that the best tree to buy is a locally gown tree in a pot with its roots. You can then plant it outside after Christmas: no need for recycling and you will add to the winter interest in your garden. I would say add that it’s best to plant the tree in the ground, rather than leave it in the pot as pots are pretty high maintenance to look after and it will much prefer to get its roots in the ground! Or another solution is to see if you can rent a pot-grown tree for Christmas and hand it back in January to be planted elsewhere! Locavore is a social enterprise based in Glasgow which helps build a more sustainable local food system including the provision of a farm shop, veg box scheme and other initiatives including a Christmas Tree Rental Scheme!
So, in summary:
· If you’re buying a real cut tree, it’s best to buy from a local supplier. Most cut trees take about 8 years to grow to the size most of us want and are cut in November ready for sale. TOP TIP: run you’re your hands through the branches. If its fresh the needles will look bright and green and shouldn’t fall off.
· If you buy a potted tree it will likely be much smaller as it may have only be growing 1-2 years. It can be planted in your garden (or someone else’s) after Christmas.
· Keep your tree watered when you get it home as your central heating will zap it.
· Recycle your tree! This is the most important bit – it mustn’t end up in landfill – take advantage of any recycling schemes run by your local Council or chip it up for use as a mulch in your garden.
· If you’re opting for a fake tree, choose something you’re going to be happy to use for at least 10 years if not longer!
Let me know what you think and what you’ll be doing this year. I’m not sure what we will be using – I think my little girl usually as the final say, so we shall see!
Have a great Christmas