Real Vs Fake. The Great Christmas Tree Debate

My family have always had a real tree. We always had a miss match of decorations, we got them out every year and marvelled at how awfully an 8 year old could make a decoration. Seriously it was bad.

Maybe that’s why, to me the smell of a Christmas tree and all its imperfections is what makes Christmas.

My only complaint growing up, and I know my brothers will agree, is that we never had a HUGE tree. Probably why we now buy the biggest tree we can get into the space we now have.

This is why when someone said to me a few years ago that a plastic artificial tree was more environmentally friendly than my real tree I bite back BADLY… “how can that possibly be true.” Well they said “because you use it for at least 10 years”.

No, I still didn’t buy it. And their not the only ones that have said this statement to me since.

To me any tree growing was good right? Christmas trees are replanted every year so there are always trees growing. They also can be composted and not end up in landfill, even if it is 10 years later.

But I never actually looked into these facts, because, well I didn’t want to be proven wrong! I didn’t want to give up or feel guilty about my precious tree.. However, seen as I’ve been writing about sustainability for the last year, I feel as though I must open Pandora’s box.

Many people love the symmetrical look of a fake tree with matching baubles, and many like me love the smell and everything else about a real tree.

So which is damaging our environment and how can we do better this Christmas?

Turns out one 6.5 metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg. Two thirds of this come from the fact that it’s plastic, therefore made from oil, and the other third from the production and shipping (more often from abroad). If you compare this to a real tree that is sent to landfill, (where it will decompose and produce methane giving it a carbon footprint of 16kg) the fake one has more than double the carbon footprint. So, sending a real one to landfill every year rather than having a fake last several years would in theory be worse for the environment.

However, if we compare this again to real tree that is been burnt you make it 10 times better than a fake!!! And you can make it even better…. Most local authorities (including my own in Eastbourne) have drop off schemes, usually found in your local Car parks, where they will collect your trees and shred them to be spread over local parks and put back into the land. This is by far the greenest option.

Providing your real tree does NOT end up in landfill, it could actually become carbon negative. Meaning it is better for the environment to have a tree at Christmas than none at all….. PHEW

According to Oliver Kenny of Yorkshire Christmas Trees who was quoted in this article in the Guardian last year. “At any one time in the UK there are about 100m trees growing with all the benefits that trees give to the environment. These trees would not be growing if it weren’t for the Christmas tree market”.

“Kenny plants more trees than are cut down each year. By reducing the emissions from transporting trees, and recycling them by chipping, real Christmas trees can become climate positive – creating an environment beneficial to removing carbon from the atmosphere.”

Lets remember a key point in the quote above and that is “reducing emission from transporting”. This is key, not only for supporting local business but for the environmental impact to. I can grantee you won’t have to go far for this either. Google your local farms, simple as that.

If you want to go one step further look for a farm that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) who ensure your tree is coming from woodland that’s managed sustainably and ethically.

The government agency WRAP estimates that 160,000 tons of our beloved festive trees are sent to landfill, which is a lot of methane heading up into the atmosphere. So basically what I’m saying is don’t be lazy, make sure it goes to a better place after it’s short life with you.

And if you see some numpty fly tipping their tree, report that shiz because it costs the tax payer a whopping £13 million to clear all those poor dumped trees.

Or if you have the space and don’t mind a slightly smaller tree you could always have one in a pot to bring in every year. Have it looking pretty in your garden all year round.

Now that lecture over, I hope you spend your weekend with lovely Christmas music playing and decorating your beautiful tree.

Hannah x