Editor’s note: Jessica Hodkinson takes a British angle on an issue for anyone celebrating Christmas… real vs. artificial trees.
It’s nearly that the time of year where we decorate the house with tinsel and wrap treasured gifts for our loved ones. But do we think about being environmentally friendly when choosing a Christmas tree?
Over six million trees are purchased every Christmas and our decisions can play a vital part in sustaining the environment’s condition.
With a large majority of the population leading a hectic lifestyle, the build up to Christmas is always a busy time and people often opt for an easy option by taking a tree that simply looks good. There has been a rise in the popularity of artificial trees, as they are fashionably decorative and last for years. The unwanted dropping of pine needles also saves on cleaning procedures.
However, artificial trees are produced using fossil fuels and end up in landfill, adding to the off set of carbon emissions and the overall pollution of the environment. Most of the plastic trees are manufactured in China which also involves high transport emissions during importation. Surely we don’t want to add to this?
The Benefits of a Real Christmas Tree
Real trees absorb CO2 while growing (six tonnes per hectare), and release oxygen into the atmosphere… with each acre of trees producing enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people. Natural trees are renewable where as artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
Growers who belong to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) sign up to an environmental code of practice which ensures that they use seeds from sustainable sources, plant on land that has been ecologically and archaeologically surveyed and use the minimum amount of chemicals needed to deal with pests and diseases. If you buy a Christmas tree that has a British flag printed on the side of its trunk, you can be sure it has been grown by the (BCTGA)
There is also something a little more special about the aroma of pine needles and the presence of a just-felled, real tree in your front room. Setting the scene traditionally is a big part of the Christmas spirit.
The most common Christmas Tree types are the balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine. If you choose a cut tree, do not purchase earlier than 1st December as it will last over a longer period of time. Trees that have been recently cut down in the UK will hold their needles better than imported varieties cut down weeks before.
Greener Choices for Christmas Tree Disposal
Most trees are left in a laneway, shoved in a rubbish bin or dumped in the nearest tip after the festive season. Stay eco friendly by recycling the tree after use as they can be taken to landfills where they are ground into mulch for future use. Contact your local council or return it to the farm where you bought it from.
Christmas trees are recycled can turned into mulch used for
- landscaping and gardening
- playground material
- paths and walkways
They can be used for lake and river shoreline stabilisation and fish and wildlife habitat.
For more details on the local services being offered, or to locate you’re nearest Refuse and Recycling Centres, visit the Recycle for London website. (Check Earth 911 in the United States)
Many more local authorities around the UK have been offering Christmas tree collection points and composting advice for waste, and a number of DIY retailers and garden centres offer tree recycling services.
Jessica Hodkinson is a representative of Hartley Botanic greenhouses.
Thinking about holiday gifts? Yep, it’s that time already. Get some ideas from our current listings of organic clothing for men, women, and kids.
Image credits: wolfsavard at Flickr under a Creative Commons license, sdminor81 at Flickr under a Creative Commons license
Dear Ms. Hodkinson,
Consumers should feel great about choosing either a real or an artificial Christmas tree this season, and every season. The real truth is that neither a real nor an artificial tree has a significant impact on the environment. So go ahead and choose the tree that best fits your lifestyle and your preferences. And do it guilt-free.
American Christmas Tree Association
That Life Cycle Analysis you asked about is now available at http://www.christmastreeassociation.org. It is the first ISO-compliant, third-party peer reviewed Life Cycle Analysis comparing the most common real tree to the most common artificial tree. The conclusion–either tree has a negligible impact on the environment.
Dear Jami Warner
Without providing any evidence of the life cycle impacts of either it appears that your claim that, “neither a real nor an artificial tree has a significant impact on the environment” is a just shameless plug for the Christmas tree industry.
Conducting an LCA study comparing the two may be a worthy pursuit for the American Christmas Tree Association.
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This article was not written with the intention of making anyone feel guilty about their choice this Christmas. Just simply outlining the positives and negatives of both and making people aware of the ‘green’ choice.
There are Christmas Tree farms. These trees are grown on land that other crops wouldn’t grow on. There is nothing wrong w/ buying a real tree.