Which type of Christmas tree is better for the planet - real or artificial?

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Family decorating Christmas Tree 

The festive season just wouldn’t be the same without a sparkly, lovingly decorated Christmas tree. This year, if you're wondering which type of tree is merriest for the planet - look no further than our easy guide.


Artificial or fake trees are a very popular choice for many families. Typically made from PVC plastic, artificial trees can be less messy, cheaper in the long run, and more suitable for smaller rooms. 

The downside is their impact on the planet. According to the Carbon Trust, a two-metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint of around 40kg CO2. That's more than ten times that of a real tree that’s burned after Christmas.

Why do they have such a large carbon footprint? Well, these types of trees are often manufactured in Asia, so they must travel a long way to reach your living room here in the UK. But it’s actually the manufacturing that causes around two thirds of the carbon footprint of fake trees, according to the according to the Carbon Trust.

This is because the plastic in the trees comes from fossil fuels which is carbon intensive. 

Pura Top Tips For Artificial Fans

  • Ten-year rule

To negate its carbon footprint, you’d need to re-use your artificial tree at least 10 times. So it's simple - just keep using your tree! When you are finally ready to move on, donate your old tree rather than sending it to landfill where it will last for centuries and cause microplastic pollution. 

  • Pre-loved pines

 If you’re looking to buy an artificial tree, search for second-hand. You can find lots online or even in charity shops. Kinder to the planet and your piggy bank! 

  • Out of your tree

Trees made from books

Many people are also taking creative approaches to artificial trees by making their own versions. Get crafty and make a Christmas tree out of driftwoods or pile of books (pictured above). Be as imaginative as you like – it is Christmas after all.


There’s nothing quite like the smell of pine, or the festive feeling of bringing the outdoors indoors, that you get with a real tree at Christmas. 

But can chopping down trees to be used to decorate your house for a few weeks of the year really be good for the planet? Well with a bit of research – or using or tips below – you can enjoy a real tree without creating a huge Christmas carbon footprint.

Children with real Christmas trees in the snow


Pura Top Tips for real trees

Look for local

If you go for a cut tree (not one with roots), Friends of the Earth advise looking for a tree that is locally produced, or at least grown in the UK with a FSC certification. This cuts carbon emissions from transporting and importing.

You can also be sure that FSC-approved trees haven't been intensively farmed, or sprayed with chemicals that threaten biodiversity.

Recycle, recycle, recycle

Landfill is the worst place for a discarded real tree to wind up – so make sure yours is recycled. A 6.5ft tall real tree could result in a carbon footprint of 16kg CO2 if it ends up in landfill because the tree decomposes and produces methane gas – which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.

The good news is that most local authorities now offer a collection service for real trees, which they chop up and use on gardens and parks – so it's the greenest way to get rid of your real tree.

Pot luck

A real tree that is growing in a pot, or can be planted in the garden, can have negligible or even negative emissions. Many companies offer this type of tree, which can be reused ever year.

We’re hiring

Though the service is not yet available in all areas of the UK, some clever Christmas tree companies are now hiring out real trees for Christmas and this trend is becoming increasingly popular in London. Check out this guide  to find out more. 


You can also offset the eco impact of your Christmas tree. Check out the carbonfootprint.com's UK Tree Planting Project, for ideas.

We hope you have a jolly time decorating your tree! Look out for our greener Christmas tips throughout December here our blog and also on our social channels.

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