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’ve still got a live one, in a container, which we purchased Xmas 1987, when the children were small. Now they’ve got young children of their own!

    Anonymous on 7th December 2022 at 2:34 am

  • I collect twigs and tall plants that are ‘over’, eg. cardoon stems, teasles and hydrangea flowers. Put them in a large pot then add lights and decorations. Grandchildren didn’t notice the difference for three years

    MS on 6th December 2022 at 5:59 pm

  • For the last 30 years I have always cut a branch off one of my trees in the garden and decorated it with the baubles I had as a child 68 years ago

    Anonymous on 6th December 2021 at 7:18 am

  • We collect trees 😃. We have a small artificial tree that belonged to my parents at least 15 years ago, we ‘inherited’ another artificial tree from our son 4 years ago when he moved, and buying a real tree has been a family occasion since we were first married. We buy it locally in early December and always keep it up for a month. When we have to say goodbye to it, it’s collected by our local Council and transformed into garden mulch.

    And when it comes to decorations, we are all about retro! Some are over 60 years old and belonged to my parents, others we’ve collected or were gifted over the years. And our tinsel is about to celebrate its 16th Birthday 🙂

    And lastly… we have a pair of well-travelled Christmas teddy bears bought 22 years ago in Canada who join us each year to sit by the fire!

    Caroline T on 3rd December 2021 at 9:45 pm

  • I never buy a tree at Christmas just use the prunings from my beech tree every year, My friends think I am crazy but why kill a tree for Christmas?

    Anonymous on 2nd December 2021 at 11:20 am

  • We made the decision to get a fake tree 15 years ago and though I much prefer real trees the fake one is still going strong so as it’s paid its carbon dues 5 years ago it would be best to carry on with it. A brilliant environmental savy idea is to look on second hand sites like Gumtree and Pre-loved for fake trees.

    Anonymous on 2nd December 2021 at 11:08 am

  • Our family has a fourth option – a tree made of wood with sockets to slot the ‘branches’ into place when assembled. Easily deconstructed and stored, reusable year after year, and will biodegrade in the end. Probably not as good as a potted tree, but better than cutting one down every year and definitely better than artificial.

    Beth on 1st December 2021 at 11:07 pm

  • I thought burning a Christmas tree would release a high amount carbon into the atmosphere.

    We have 3 large garden pots containing willow in the garden. They’re branches go a beautiful red/gold brown in the winter. Decorated with lights for Christmas they look wonderful. Same trees and lights evsry year.

    Liz Coxwell on 1st December 2021 at 8:09 pm

  • Whilst i agree that root ball is best , the tree should have been grown in the pot and not just dug up and put into the pot . That way it will survive to do it’s good work. X

    Mandy Griffin on 1st December 2021 at 7:30 pm

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