So let’s be upfront from the get-go. I’m a die-hard real Christmas tree lover and cannot see myself crossing over to the dark side and even considering faking it. Every year I’m asked by the press how I’ll be styling my home this year and the one thing that never changes is, it’s gotta be real! I love the pure eccentricity of bringing a living tree, into your home and covering it in gaudy tinsel and baubles, to me it is just pure fun loving magic. I adore the wonkiness of a real tree too while the perfect symmetry of a faux tree is just charmless to me.
Getting the tree and loading it into the car, wrestling it into its stand, then realising you bought one too tall again this year, and pruning some of the more wayward branches is all part of the custom. And that smell! Christmas is a really sensory experience and the small of a real tree with its freshness cutting through the fug of central heating is just pure heaven.
But with sustainability increasingly on everyone’s minds, especially heightened during this festival of consumerism, it’s pricked my conscious for the first time. Is cutting down a living tree the most sustainable option and should I be encouraging everyone to buy real year in and year out? And while we all know that plastic is the devil’s work, is a faux tree actually the more saintly thing to do in this scenario?
So make an informed decision this Christmas using our rundown of the pros and cons of both.
That Christmas authenticity – if Christmas is a time for tradition than a real Christmas tree is the only way. And of course, they look real because they are.
The smell – let’s not forget the heavenly pine scent that only comes with the real deal.
Allergies – Apparently one third of the UK population suffer from itchy skin and cold-like symptoms after putting up their Christmas tree
Dropping needles– this is the tipping point that takes most people to the faux side. However if you buy a tree that’s been very recently cut down, hence is local to you, and you put it in a stand that you can regularly water, AND you don’t put your tree up in November, you shouldn’t suffer to badly.
Christmas trees are grown on what are essentially farms, so you’re not ripping one out of a natural woodland or forest, and farmers will plant another in the place of every fully grown tree that is cut down, so they’re sustainable as long as when Christmas is over, rather than end up in landfill sites, you recycle.
1. Buy a locally grown sustainable tree, not an import.
Aside from making sure your tree will stay fresher for longer, a local tree also doesn’t have the carbon footprint of been transported from abroad. If you want to be reassured that your tree has been grown sustainably, look for the FSC-certification logo. If you want a tree that’s certified as organic and pesticide-free, get one that’s approved by the Soil Association.
2. Buy a potted tree with roots
This will allow you to pop it outside for the rest of the year and reuse it again and again. This reduces the environmental impact further and will cost you less over time. It will need some looking after and you’ll need a big enough pot and of course, garden.
3. Rent a living Christmas tree
It’s a thing! Who knew? Renting a living tree could give you the best of all worlds. It’s got all the authenticity, it’s a sustainable option and there’s little hassle as it will be delivered to your door and then collected after Christmas too. Check out your local garden centres or plant nurseries or order online at sites like Love A Christmas Tree
Your local council will have a location where you can take your real tree or take them to your nearest recycling centre. Trees will be shredded and then used as mulch in parks and woodland or recycled as compost.
No pine needle mess – This is the big selling point! Plus there’s less chance of someone in your family having an allergic reaction which can put a downer on the fun.
Less expensive – once you’ve paid for your artificial tree it means you don’t need to buy a new one every year, making Christmas possibly little bit more affordable.
You need to use it long term – Following that point, it’s only a saving for your purse and the planet, if you keep the tree and reuse it year on year. In fact, you would need to keep it for ten years for it to offset its carbon footprint.
Non-recyclable – an artificial tree will eventually end up in landfill even if you have used it for ten years.
The Carbon Trust estimates that a two-metre-tall artificial tree has twice the carbon footprint of a real tree that ends up in a landfill. If that real tree is burned or chipped, then the artificial tree’s footprint is ten times as large. Fake trees are made from plastic and metal which take a lot of energy to produce and it’s yet more synthetic waste to be disposed of. And lets take into account too the fact that they may have been transported half the way around the world too!
1. Buy a pre-loved tree
Consider shopping for a used artificial tree from sites like eBay, facebook market place or Gumtree.
2. Opt for non-PVC
Most artificial trees are made from PVC which is not only non-recyclable but emits pollutants during production. It’s hard to find one that’s 100 per cent PVC free so choose a tree made with as much PE (polyethene) as possible. This is a safer plastic which is used to create the most realistic faux pine needles so it’s a win on both counts.
So to sum up, in terms of aesthetics the appearance of real versus fake is really a very personal matter. Some of the more expensive faux tree’s are getting really convincing and I can’t deny the sheer convenience of them. But they cost not just you but the planet a pretty penny so if you are going to fake it, buy as well as you can afford and keep it for at least ten years. On the other hand, if you are keeping it real, buy local, water it every few days to keep it looking fresh and take it to a recycling point when Christmas is over. Or better still look at renting one and be done with the hassle and the guilty conscience! Talking a guilty conscience, pass me another mince pie!