A Christmas tree dilemma

real or fake?

Festive carbon quiz: real or fake?

For some, there’s nothing like a real Christmas tree. The muddiness of choosing a fine specimen (maybe even cutting it down), pushing it through that cool wrapping tube thing, struggling to get it home, cutting a further three feet off it to get it through the doorway, and finally making it stand up properly, are all part of the ritual.

The reward is a piece of “nature” brought indoors, infusing our festive memories with a richly resinous scent. Then in the New Year, the challenge of removing the by-then withering tree without losing every remaining needle into the carpet surely provides one of January’s earliest joys.

Other people just fetch the plastic tree down from the loft, plug it in, and pack it away again afterwards. Bah!

Anyone contemplating this year’s jaw-dropping prices is faced with a dilemma: is a real tree worth it? One way to look at that question is what impact they have on the environment, relative to the artificial or indeed some other alternative.

Real trees soak up carbon as they grow. But do they live long enough to lock up the carbon released through soil disturbance when they’re planted? Probably not.

Fossil fuel and fertilisers are both used on Christmas tree plantations. The cost of both has rocketed this year, taking tree prices with them.

There is an alternative, if they'll stay still long enough

There is an alternative, if they'll stay still long enough

Harvesting and transporting real trees emits carbon. Imported tree prices are subject to fluctuations in the currency market (oh dear).

Artificial trees, which apparently have their origins in the humble toilet brush, require an array of nasty chemicals in their production.

The great thing about artificial trees, though, is that they can (and should) be reused. Spreading that carbon footprint across the years makes the argument for and against real or artificial trees a much tougher call.

So what to do? Only you can decide. All we ask is that you think about your choice before making it.

Get real

  • If you can, grow your own. All you need is space for five trees, planted in successive years
  • Buy a tree with roots. That way you can plant it in the garden when the festivities are over
  • Buy local. Avoid unnecessary emissions and support your local woodland industry at the same time

Fake it

  • Choose a nice tree. One you’ll enjoy for years and years and years…
  • Try to buy a tree that uses recycled materials
  • Look at where the tree is from. Chances are it’s China, but you never know

Alternatively, you could buy a Woodland Trust Eco-Tree (with apologies: we just couldn’t resist the plug!)

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