A conscience-free Christmas tree isn’t hard to find, but it helps if you know where to look.
Let’s start with the basics: if you’ve got a dusty old plastic tree kicking about in your attic then, believe it or not, this is probably your most sustainable option. Over ten or so years, consistently using the same artificial tree will have less of a carbon footprint than buying another kind every year.
However, if you’re coming from a completely tree-free position, there’s a bit more to think about…
Real Christmas trees seem like the obvious choice for sustainability. They’re biodegradable, they spend the whole year neutralising carbon, and they’re (usually) easy to find locally. Plus, they smell all Christmassy! Here are a few tips for getting the most sustainable real tree possible:
- Make sure your real tree isn’t from the wild. It’s rare for sellers to cut Christmas trees from the wild, but not unheard of. Make sure you know where your tree has come from. You don’t want to be taking habitat from wildlife at the coldest time of the year!
- Stay local (and small). Favouring smaller, more local tree operations is not only a good way to support the local economy, it will also keep your carbon footprint low (because you won’t be driving miles and miles for your tree). Smaller operations are also less likely to use harmful chemicals while growing their trees.
- If you can, pick your own while it’s growing. The best way to be sure that your tree has been grown ethically and sustainably is to choose it yourself while it’s still growing. Pick-your-own Christmas tree businesses tend to be more sustainable – the business model ensures that trees are not over-produced and over-harvested as may be the case with some larger, more commercialised operations.
- Rent a tree. Tree rentals are becoming increasingly popular. The concept is pretty simple: rather than cutting your tree at the trunk the grower digs it up with the root ball intact. It then comes to you in a pot over the Christmas period. All you have to do is keep it alive (OK, easier said than done) until it’s time to return it – whereupon it’ll be replanted ready to keep growing until next year.
So long as you get them with a view to longevity, artificial trees aren’t as bad as you might think. After all, if they already exist, it’s probably better to keep on using them than to send them to landfill. If you’re among the third of Brits who suffer from Christmas Tree Syndrome (or if you simply don’t like hoovering up dropped pine needles), there’s no need to feel guilty about using an artificial Christmas tree.
However, rather than going out and buying a brand spanking-new plastic tree, why not look into more sustainable options?
- Recycled trees. Getting a second-hand artificial tree is a lot better than contributing to demand for new artificial trees. Hunt around freecycling sites and charity shops and see what you can find.
- Alternative trees. There are some really inventive biodegradable options on the market right now. For example, driftwood trees are popular, classy, last a long time, and won’t be cluttering up the planet in centuries to come. Or, you could go for something entirely different for your Christmas centrepiece. A traditional bough, for example.
- Trees made from recycled materials. It’s amazing what people can recycle and upcycle these days. New trees made from recycled materials or old trees given a new lease of life with some crafty upcycling are much better for the planet than buying a brand-new Christmas tree.
The best option for you depends a lot on your circumstances, but rest assured that there’s an eco-friendly tree out there for you somewhere!
The next step is to decorate it.