O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree…It’s the ultimate symbol of the festive season – but is it sustainable? Here’s our guide to choosing the most eco-friendly Christmas tree.
It’s almost time again for the annual Christmas debate – do you get a real tree or a fake one? The side of the proverbial fence you sit on usually depends on your childhood recollections of Christmases past, and whether the smell of fresh pine needles fills you with festive cheer or leaves you indifferent as you drag your decade-old artificial tree out of the loft again (bringing happy memories of bygone Christmases with it).
But which is the most sustainable option?
Whether you’re looking for real trees or artificial, to rent or buy, here is our sustainable guide to Christmas tree buying:
Real Christmas Trees
Real Christmas trees require no manufacturing process, only growing, and are 100% recyclable – once Christmas is over they can by mulched for landscaping and gardening, or turned into woodchips. While some have voiced concerns over cutting trees down and losing valuable habitat for wildlife, Christmas trees are not usually grown in wild forests but are a crop like any other, so purchasing a real Christmas tree from a local farmer helps to support the rural economy and once trees are harvested, more are planted.
Sadie Lynes, managing director of Jadecliff Ltd and Marldon Christmas Tree Farm says that British-grown trees have had a great growing season: “this year’s good rain has countered last year’s heat waves, which means better colour, stronger needles and ultimately less needle drop.”
When considering a real Christmas tree, look for locally and sustainably-grown trees.
Rent a living Christmas tree:
An environmentally-friendly option is to rent your Christmas tree for the festive season. Rented Christmas trees are living trees, so they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen (which is great for air quality). Trees are grown locally throughout the year and are then potted with a root-ball, which enables them to be returned and replanted for next year. Simply remove your decorations after the festivities are over and either arrange for a collection or return to the shop.
A few companies are now offering Christmas tree rentals, check with your local Christmas tree farm or visit the following:
Buy a Real Cut Sustainably Grown Tree:
If you would rather buy a real cut Christmas tree (which means it is cut at the trunk) and you’re in the UK, choose one that is British-grown to reduce the carbon miles that European trees travel to get here. Buying a locally grown tree will also mean that it is harvested later and is therefore fresher, as it doesn’t need time for travel and packing.
Ideally, find a farm where you can cut your own as there is no fresher option and trees can be cut according to demand (rather than over-harvested). With care, cut trees should last about four weeks – keep outside in water for as long as possible to keep your tree looking fresh. Here are a few places to find locally grown trees:
- forestryengland.uk – Search for real Christmas trees for sale near you that have been sustainably grown in the UK. You’ll receive a free Christmas tree sapling with your purchase too.
- marldonchristmastrees.co.uk – Marldon is not just a Christmas tree farm but a day out for the whole family, complete with reindeers and Santa’s Grotto. Trees are locally grown in Devon on an 8-10 year cycle with minimal intervention and insecticides to keep the natural balance and provide bee-friendly habitats. To prepare for the future, forward thinking professional growers are planting less trees to the acre, which means that crops can be managed in a totally different way that is less dependent on chemicals.
- newburychristmastreefarm.co.uk – Choose and cut your own Christmas tree at Newbury Christmas Tree farm in Berkshire, where trees are cared for and grown over 10 years on the farm’s 25 acres.
- glasfrynfencing.co.uk – FSC-certified trees grown in a responsibly managed forest.
- www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk – FSC-certified trees grown in a responsibly managed forest.
- caringchristmastrees.com – All trees are grown in Scotland in managed, sustainable farms and every tree bought raises vital funds for the Bethany Christmas Trust, which is working to end homelessness in Scotland.
Buy a Pot-Grown Living Christmas Tree:
Buying a pot-grown living Christmas tree will mean that your tree will arrive with all of its roots intact, and so after Christmas it can be planted in your garden or repotted as it grows to enjoy for years to come. Living trees shouldn’t be kept in the house any longer than 12 days, but be guided by the tree and put it back outside if it looks unhappy.
DISCOVER 6 WAYS TO DISPOSE OF YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE SUSTAINABLY
Find pot-grown trees:
Artificial Christmas Trees
Traditional artificial Christmas trees are made from a combination of (usually plastic-based) materials and therefore cannot be recycled. Despite often being sold as the greener option, according to the Carbon Trust, you would need to reuse your artificial Christmas tree for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.
If you do prefer an artificial tree but don’t want to contribute to landfill and ocean waste, look on second-hand sites such as Freecycle and charity shops to find pre-loved trees that you can give new life to.
For a new but more sustainable option, seek out trees made of recyclable or degradable materials. When buying a wooden tree, check for an FSC label to ensure you are buying from a responsibly-managed source.
Driftwood Christmas Trees, from £85, Nautilus Driftwood Design
These quirky handmade trees are made to order using pieces of driftwood collected in person during beachcoming forays around the UK coastline.
Available at notonthehighstreet.com.
Goodness-Tree, £65, Giles Miller Studio
Made from cardboard, these trees are not only planet but also people-friendly. 100% of the Goodness Tree profits go to homelessness charity Shelter, giving back to those in need during the festive period. The trees can be re-used and recycled, making them an eco-friendly option with a significant social impact too.
Available from Giles Miller Studio.
3ft Natural Driftwood Christmas Tree, £135, Doris Brixham
Made using foraged driftwood that is kiln-dried, this driftwood tree comes in its own recyled cardboard storage box and can be left up all year round and decorated for different occasions.
Available from notonthehighstreet.com.
Time to take the tree down? Read our guide to disposing of your Christmas tree sustainably.
For more Christmas inspiration, see our DIY and refillable advent calendars ideas and our Ultimate Eco-Age Christmas Gift Guide.