10th December 2018 Artificial or real Christmas tree

Artificial or real Christmas trees – which is better for the environment?

If you’re dreaming of a green Christmas then your choice of Christmas tree is a major decision.

Artificial trees are increasingly popular as they look ever more life-like and convenient.

Real trees are a bit more work in putting them up securely, keeping the needles on and then disposing of them after Christmas. There are, however, very few things that evoke the spirit of Christmas more than the beauty and aroma of the real Christmas tree.

So which is better for the environment?

Real versus artificial Christmas trees, the environmental impact

Artificial or fake Christmas trees

The major impact of an artificial Christmas tree is in its manufacture. They are made from plastic and therefore oil accounting for about two thirds of their carbon footprint , according to Dr John Kazer of the Carbon Trust.

Another quarter is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree is made. They are also often shipped long distances before arriving in the shop and then your home. This means that a 2m artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill – and more than 10 times that of real trees that are burnt (Christmas trees: Real or fake?).

If you have an artificial tree at home you would need to reuse it for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.

Dr John Kazer of the Carbon Trust

Real Christmas tree environmental impact

A real tree has an impact too and that depends on how you dispose of it.Real Christmas trees

If it’s landfilled then a two metre real Christmas tree with no roots, the carbon footprint is equivalent to 16kg of greenhouse gas emissions. This is because the tree decomposes and produces methane gas, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to the trust.

If you burn your Christmas tree on the bonfire, plant it or have it chipped to spread on the garden, that significantly reduces the carbon footprint by up to 80% or around 3.5kg CO2 (greenhouse gas emissions).

Dr John Kazer of the Carbon Trust

Final advice about which is the best option

Friends of the Earth advise getting a locally produced tree, or at least grown in the UK with a FSC certification to avoid emissions from transporting and importing.

If you already have an artificial tree, keep it and keep using it – but if it becomes a little bedraggled and artificial is still your thing – opt for a second hand one in order for the plastic to be reused not dumped and to keep the carbon footprint down.

The best option of all is probably a pot green tree which can be planted out in the garden after Christmas or re-potted and used again, year after year.

We wish all our customers and suppliers a very happy Christmas.

Further reading

Are real or fake trees better for the environment

Scrooge proof checklist for a green Christmas

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