How to choose the ‘greenest’ Christmas Tree

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Christmas tree with presents

Christmas trees are one of our most beloved festive traditions, especially for children. Where else would Santa leave the pressies?

We’re putting our trees up earlier and earlier, and many houses now have more than one. There are loads of Christmas tree options around too. Real trees, fake trees, those that come with roots in a pot. But which is the most environmentally friendly option?

Fake plastic trees

Artificial Christmas tree

For those with busy lives, an artificial tree makes good sense. There’s no watering, and it will not drop needles on your carpet. Good for those with allergies, artificial Christmas trees can be used over many years making them a money saver over time.

However, most traditional artificial trees are made from plastic, PVC and metal. PVC is one of the most difficult plastics to recycle, and these types of trees certainly aren’t biodegradable or recyclable. Add to this, there’s the cardboard packaging and the fact that most fake trees are made in China, so they rack up airmiles as they’re shipped across the globe.

According to the Carbon Trust, a two-metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint of around 40kg CO2e, more than ten times that of a real tree that’s burned after Christmas.

In other words, says the Soil Association, you’d need to re-use an artificial tree 10 times to negate its carbon footprint, and, typically, most artificial trees are only used four times.

But before you opt for a real tree, there are a few other things to consider…

The real deal 

Real Fir Christmas tree by an open fire

Smelling of pine, there’s no doubt that a real Christmas tree – though they take a bit more looking after than a fake tree – can make a home feel really festive.

When it comes to their sustainability, a lot depends on which tree you buy and – even more importantly - how you get rid of it after Christmas.

You might think that chopping down a tree just for Christmas isn’t great for the planet. But if you choose wisely real Christmas trees which are usually evergreen conifers – such as a fir, spruce or pine trees – are a sustainable crop typically grown in a nine-year-cycle and and aren’t felled from pre-existing forests.

According to the Soil Association, you should:

The most important thing with real trees is to ensure they don’t end up in landfill. If it decomposes in landfill, it will release methane a greenhouse gas that’s 30 time more potent that CO2. This means it’s carbon footprint jumps almost to 16kg CO2e.

You can have your recycled by your local authority who often arrange drop-off points or special collections of 'real' trees in early January and advertise the dates along with any other changes to collections over the Christmas period. Check your local authority website for more information here.

The alternatives

Natural Christmas Tree

If you prefer a real tree, an alternative to a ‘single use’ tree is to opt for trees that are pot grown. This provides a hardier tree with a strong root ball that will last year after year.

If you’d like an eco-friendlier artificial tree, there are many thoughtfully made alternatives to plastic trees, like the wooden trees created by  which are handcrafted from sustainably sourced hazel coppice, cut as part of traditional woodland management.

So, there are lots of options. Fake plastic trees aren’t all bad news if you commit to using them for 10 years and the impact of real trees cut down for Christmas can be greatly reduced if you ensure they are recycled. Whatever you choose, we hope you and your little ones have fun decorating it.


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