The great Christmas tree debate

Should you buy a real Christmas tree or an artificial one?

In terms of waste prevention, opting for a plastic tree may seem the obvious way to go as if you look after it, then it can be used again and again. In comparison, about 250 tonnes of Christmas trees end up in landfill each year, even though there are better ways to dispose of them.

However, opting for an artificial tree seems a little odd given we are all trying to cut down on our plastic consumption. So, which is the better option?

Well, it all depends on how many times you reuse your artificial tree and how you dispose of your real one. According to the Carbon Trust, if you reuse a plastic tree for ten Christmases or more then it will outweigh the environmental impact of a real tree.

A two-metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, most of this comes from the manufacturing process. A two-metre real Christmas tree with no roots has a carbon footprint of 16kg of greenhouse gas emissions even if it ends up in landfill. This is because the tree decomposes and produces methane gas, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

If you were to chip your real tree and spread it on the garden or plant it, then its carbon footprint is just 3.5kg of greenhouse gas emissions.

If you do go for a real Christmas tree then the best option is to buy one that is potted and can be planted once Christmas is over. If this isn't possible then real trees can be taken to a Household Recycling Centre for composting or you can cut it up and put it in your garden waste bin if you have one.

Or, you can avoid the whole debate completely and opt for a different version of a Christmas tree.

You can also go plastic-free with your decorations by using alternatives to the usual tat and tinsel.

For instance, try using strings of cranberries and popcorn instead of tinsel and bake your baubles.

Find more ideas and recipes for creating edible Christmas decorations.

You can also look to nature by using sprigs of holly, fir, twigs and branches, mistletoe and pine cones to adorn your tree and your home.

If you do decide to go for shop-bought decorations then invest in good quality ones that will last year after year. 

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