Monday 14th November 2022
Did you know, around seven million real Christmas trees are bought every year in the UK?!
With Christmas just around the corner, what better time to discuss the different Christmas trees you can buy and their impact on the environment.
What trees can you buy?
There are three main types of Christmas trees that you can buy – artificial, real and root ball. Artificial trees are the plastic-based trees you find in a department store or supermarket, and the real and root ball ones you can find at your local tree farm or garden centre. Potted Christmas trees allow you to reuse your live trees over the years.
What’s the impact of artificial trees?
Around 50% of all trees sold in the UK each year are artificial and are probably the most common trees you see being sold around the festive period. However, there are obvious environmental issues associated with artificial trees. For instance, many fake trees are made of PVC, which is one of the most damaging plastics and is almost impossible to recycle. (1) Also, these trees tend to be made abroad and then shipped to the UK which adds to their carbon footprint. As a result, a two-metre artificial tree has an average carbon footprint of 40kg, which means it would need to be used for 10 years to negate their impact! (2)
What’s the impact of real trees?
Although real Christmas trees take around 10 years to grow, they provide an excellent home for wildlife, and sequest carbon, during this time. In fact, a real Christmas tree, that doesn’t have roots, only has a carbon footprint of 16kg (2) and the soil it grows in can absorb 10 times more carbon than the tree itself! (1)
You can help reduce their environmental impact further by making sure you buy a tree from a local Christmas tree farm, and ensure you dispose of the tree properly. For example, why not use the tree for firewood, the pine needles as natural fertiliser, or use it as a shelter for bugs and birds. We’d also recommend checking with your local recycling centre if they can recycle trees for mulch, and researching charities in the local area that may offer collection for a small donation. If you’re struggling to recycling your tree, the Soil Association recommends burning your Christmas tree, instead of just throwing it away, as it can reduce emissions by 80%.
What’s the impact of a root ball tree?
A root ball Christmas tree is a live tree that still has its roots attached. This means you can re-plant your tree after the Christmas period is over and then re-use it each year. Not only will this tree provide a lovely habitat for wildlife in your garden, it also greatly reduces your tree’s carbon footprint. A root ball tree only has a carbon footprint of 3.5kg! (2) This is because, once replanted, the tree will continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and have a positive impact on the environment.
Avoiding plastic, and favouring natural, will always be a better choice for the planet. Which is why root ball and real Christmas trees have a considerably lower carbon footprint than artificial trees. However, if you don’t have a local tree farm near you, then make sure you carefully consider the artificial tree you buy – is it something you can re-use for the next ten years? Assess the quality and style to ensure you won’t need to throw it out in January.
Once you’ve chosen your Christmas tree, why not consider making your own decorations? For example, you could forage for pinecones, use the children’s old toys, make your own paper chains using paper off cuts, or re-use decorations from past generations.
The little swaps you make this Christmas really can make all the difference for the planet.