Yeo Valley Organic Christmas Tree

How Green is your Christmas Tree?

Monday 14th November 2022

Yeo Valley Organic Christmas dolly tree
Hands up if you want a sustainable tree!

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)

The grotto at Yeo Valley Organic HQ
Take a seat in a grotto of real trees

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.


an old toy cow on a Christmas tree
An old toy cow has found a festive new home!

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.





Comments on “How Green is your Christmas Tree?”

  • I have the best environmental Christmas. I do not put a tree up. They stay in the ground, in the garden.

    Alan Williamson on 1st December 2021 at 7:11 pm

  • We like your raising awareness item , and I really hope it will make people think. but my biggest worry is the plastic baubles and tinsel which will be used to decorate. we haven’t had a tree for 30 years but our rooms look great for Yule decorated with dried summer leaves and blooms from the garden, holly and evergreens from the berry shrubs in our very small garden. happy Yule
    R Maillard x

    Anonymous on 1st December 2021 at 7:02 pm

  • Interesting article.
    We use to buy rooted Christmas trees .not one survived did for a few months.
    On examination of the tree found the roots had all be cut not a truly rooted tree..won’t be don any more.
    Have an artificial one that’s 6 years ok carbon wise.
    Non rooted Christmas trees we use to donate to environment agency for there work to stabilise the Sand dunes at Camber.
    Never put Christmas tree on to a fire at home..One dry dry branch caught the chimney alight..Fire brigade had to come out..
    scary.. the Christmas tree has oils in it..
    I presume the soil association say burn it on a garden bonfire. Which I suppose could be safer..

    Anonymous on 1st December 2021 at 6:47 pm

  • We inherited Father in Law’s tree after he died in 1988, already many years in use, I remember my husband decorating it when a teenager. It has been used every year since then, so I think it’s environmental impact is pretty small.

    Barbara White on 1st December 2021 at 6:23 pm

  • I plant my trees in the garden afterwards, and often have two rotating at one time. One is dug up and decorated while the other rests for another year.
    Some of the decorations on my tree are nearly 60 years old, and were on my tree as a child, or even on my parents’ tree before that. I would never discard tree decorations and replace them in a certain style…although I prefer not to use “tinsel” these days! Each year a selection of decorations are used to suit the tree.

    Amanda Jackson on 1st December 2021 at 5:55 pm

  • We bought our tree six years ago at a market. It lives in a large container in the garden all the year round, except at Christmas when we bring it in and decorate it. It’s only 4ft tall at the moment, growing a little each year. Carbon footprint? Probably zero!

    Anonymous on 1st December 2021 at 5:49 pm

  • Excellent informative article. Factual , easy to read and absorb.

    Beryl Beard on 1st December 2021 at 1:10 pm

  • Really pleased to read the info about trees as we are selling ours for Scout funds on Saturday and wondering if we were justified doing this instead of leaving them in the ground in future. I shall quote your info when folks query us .
    Thank you.

    Pip Riley on 1st December 2021 at 10:52 am

  • We go to RSPB Arne on their pick a pine day. This means we contribute financially to the work done there plus we help clear the heathland of pines. We also get to take home a lovely little tree we’ve picked ourselves, which we put in our green bin in January. Last year we went to a tree farm as we couldn’t go to Arne because of the pandemic.

    Angela Beuden on 1st December 2021 at 8:16 am

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