Which is the greener option when it comes to Christmas trees: real or artificial? A real Christmas tree is a beautiful and traditional addition to our commercialised modern Christmases but it comes with a frisson of guilt. Should we be cutting down trees at a time when our struggling planet and its biosphere need all the trees they can get? Fear not; the news is good.
Fake trees are typically made from non-recyclable plastic, shipped over long distances, and their environmental cost is high. Scientists have worked out that artificial trees, in order to become more eco-friendly than real trees, have to be re-used twenty times to offset the chemicals used during their manufacture and the shipping emissions produced to deliver them.
Natural Christmas trees are farmed in enormous acreages that are, in effect, carbon sinks taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Those trees that are cut are replaced every year with new seedlings. World-wide, there is an enormous diffuse Christmas tree forest that is slowly growing larger as demand increases. If people stop using artificial trees altogether, that Christmas tree forest will only get bigger and absorb even more carbon dioxide.
To make our real tree even greener (pun intended!) we are recommended to buy it from the closest farm possible to reduce environmentally damaging transport emissions. The greenest option seems to be growing your own Christmas tree and keeping it in a pot in your garden.
When we get to Twelfth Night and take our Christmas decorations down, don’t consign your real tree to landfill. As it rots down, it will release methane, a greenhouse gas even more damaging than carbon dioxide. Most councils will collect your tree and mulch it, and there are charities that organise post-Christmas tree collection for a small donation. Here are some details that might help.