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A Christmas tree for life. Not just for Christmas.

December 08, 2021

A Christmas tree for life. Not just for Christmas.

It's only the beginning of December, but it feels like Christmas is well underway! Your tree might be up already, but if it isn't, have you considered the environmental impact of both real and fake trees?

As with everything in the world of sustainability, it's not as straightforward as you might first think.

Real Trees

You might think this is a bit of a no-brainer; surely a real tree is better? A real tree can take between 10-12 years to grow to 6 feet (the most popular size). Whilst they are growing, they provide a habitat for wildlife and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

Christmas tree farms can often displace other more diverse ecosystems with a monocrop of non-native species, and they might also use high levels of pesticides.

The issue comes when the tree is cut down and disposed of when it comes to the end of its life. Many local authorities offer a collection service where the trees can be reduced to chips and used in compost. If you leave your tree to decompose, that's about the worst thing you can do due to the methane released during the decomposition process. In fact, burning your tree could emit 80% fewer emissions!

Artificial Trees

Most artificial trees are made in China, so not only is there the impact of the materials used in the construction of the tree, but there's also the shipping to think about as well.

According to the carbon trust, a two-metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg. This means you would have to use it at least 10 times to have the same footprint as a real one that's burned. Despite the increasing quality of artificial trees, many are used as little as three times, making them a far worse option.

You could consider getting a second-hand artificial tree to save it from landfill and give it a new lease of life.


What about other options, then? You can buy a living tree grown in pots that can be used year after year and put it outside in the garden (without the decorations) for the rest of the year. Assuming you manage to not kill it, this can provide you with many years of use as each year, you can just bring it inside again. Some services let you rent trees - there's a good list at, but they mostly seem to be based in the South / East Midlands. How about using a plant you've already got? If you already have some plants, then why not decorate those instead?

You could even try a wooden tree (pictured right) as an alternative that should last forever! Feeling creative? How about making a tree out of cardboard? Try this one from makedo 🎄

cardboard tree