The argument about which is more environmentally friendly - an artificial Vs a real Christmas Tree rages on each year. Some argue that because a fake tree is re-used year after year, that it's better for the environment, while others believe the chemicals and air miles to produce them and ship them to stores means they are not green.
I have to admit, we have both - a small coloured fake tree in my daughter's room which she helps to decorate, and which I picked up a couple of years back in a charity shop, and a big real tree in the living room.
Personally, I believe that real trees are more eco friendly. In reality, artificial trees are used on average for between 6 and 9 years before they end up in landfill where they fail to biodegrade. They are also mostly made in the Far East and transported here for sale. Production involves the use of petrochemicals, PVA, metals and in some cases, lead.
Real trees on the other hand, use about 10 times fewer materials and take 5 times less energy to produce than fake trees. Whilst they are growing, they provide a natural habitat for wildlife, they remove dust and pollen from the air, produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.
The greenest choice of all for a Christmas tree would be to buy a living one and re-use it each year, but I know that's not practical for everyone.
Of course, there's more to it than just choosing a real tree over an artificial tree. To be as green as possible, these are my tips:
Source your tree responsibly:
Reputable tree farmers will re-plant more trees than they harvest each year. Purchase your tree from a reputable supplier who manages responsibly like the Forestry Commission. They have sites across England and Scotland, and also a mail order service. They grow their trees for between 5 and 10 years and all are managed to FSC standards.
Care for your tree:
You don't need fancy chemical sprays to keep a real tree looking good - as long as you've bought a healthy one in the first place. Follow these simple tips to keep your tree looking great throughout the festive season:
- stand it in a bucket of water and keep it in a cool place such as a garage or shed until ready to take indoors for decorating
- before taking it indoors, cut off at least one inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom of the trunk and gently shake the tree to remove any loose needles
- pot the tree with the trunk immersed in water. Most woodland centres sell special stands
- do not use sand or soil in the tree stand as they restrict water from being drawn up the trunk
- stand the tree in the coolest part of the room, ideally next to a window and away from radiators and fires and top it up with water daily
If you lose any needles, sweep them up with a dustpan and brush rather than the vacuum.
Rather than mass produced, plastic baubles and decorations, try the more natural approach - pine cones; cinnamon sticks and orange slices all look and smell fabulous. Edible ornaments are recycled in the best possible way! So try gingerbread cookies; popcorn garlands and candy canes.
Last year I used lots of upcycled household items on my tree and it looked fab - tiny white tea cups; old keys and odd dominoes, as well as fabric decorations made from felted old jumpers and hessian. Charity shops are also great for picking up old ornaments and reusing them.
LED lights are cheaper and use less energy than traditional lights, and remember to switch them off when you're not in the room to enjoy them.
Disposing of your tree:
Once the season is over, make sure you recycle your tree. Many councils have collections or you can take your tree to a recycling centre where it is chipped and used in municipal areas as mulch. Some coastal areas also collect and use old Christmas trees as sea defence, so find out if there's a collection point near you.
The really hardcore eco-warriors among you might try the ultimate in recycling your Christmas tree - and eat it! Yes, that's right. I already mentioned making pine flavoured vinegar from the needles, I did that last year and it was delicious. You can also use the needles much in the same way as Rosemary to flavour food, and there's loads of ideas on this blog post - "Can you eat your Christmas tree?" How do you fancy pine butter, or vodka or pine sugar?
I'd love to know which side of the fence you are on this debate. And would you eat your Christmas tree?!
Disclosure: I am an official blogger for the Forestry Commission and receive an annual pass for my local site.