Christmas trees are one of the most iconic elements of Christmas, and we Brits love them! According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association around 7 million trees are bought each year. But more than half of the trees sold every year in the UK are fake.
So when it comes to Christmas trees, if you're concerned about your impact on the environment then which is better? Real or fake?
It is perhaps surprising that even felled trees have a number of environmental benefits. Not only are they 100% biodegradable, but they can also have positive benefits at every stage of their lifecycle.
A 2 metre tall Christmas tree takes on average 10-12 years to grow, and during this time it provides positive benefits to the ecosystem including;
- providing a habitat for wildlife
- acting as a carbon sink, drawing carbon out the atmosphere to store in the soil, making the air cleaner and the soil richer
- improving soil health with their needles when they break down.
Many of the trees available to buy in the UK are also grown here, meaning their carbon footprint is lower than that of trees that are shipped in from other countries.
Although felled trees have a relatively low carbon footprint, potted trees (if kept alive and used for more than two years) can become carbon neutral, as the carbon used in their growing and transportation is offset by the amount of time the tree is used.
How to dispose of your tree
There are a number of uses for trees at the end of their lifecycle. They can be chopped up and used for firewood, put on a compost heap to break back down back into soil or made into a bug hotel!
If, like many of us, you don't have a garden, there are a number of places that will dispose of your tree. In Hackney for example:
- Hackney City Farm ask for Christmas trees to be dropped off to them after 2nd January. The trees are either turned into compost or the wood is used to create bug hotels around the farm!
- Hackney council will collect trees on your normal bin day between 6-17th January. The trees are shredded and turned into compost for Hackney’s parks and gardens.
According to the Carbon Trust an average two metre fake Christmas tree takes 40kg of carbon to create, and must be used for ten years to make it carbon neutral.
Unfortunately on average a fake tree is only used for four years, due to changing trends in the style of Christmas trees.
Fake Christmas trees are also notoriously hard to recycle as they are made from a number of different materials interwoven together, consequently most fake Christmas trees end up in landfill. This produces huge amounts of methane gas, as well as taking hundreds of years to biodegrade.