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How to buy a sustainable Christmas tree

Living
5 minute guide

Jesse Dodd

30 November 2016

It’s Christmas! Festive times call for festive trees, but the debate of real vs fake rolls around every year. Here’s our guide to finding a sustainable Christmas tree.

How sustainable are fake Christmas trees?
Short answer? They’re not. Long answer? Fake trees might seem sustainable from one point of view but they’re made of non-renewable plastics and petroleum-based products. They take five times more energy to produce. Once they’re used for a few years they’re thrown into landfills. Hardly very eco is it?

How is growing a real Christmas tree eco-friendly?
Natural Christmas trees are a sustainable resource. They’re a slow to grow crop often cultivated on land that isn’t good enough for anything else. Christmas tree farms are exactly that, farms. It takes seven years to grow a two metre Christmas tree during that time it’s acting as a carbon sink, trapping CO2 and using ten times less resources than artificial tree factories. Usually more seedlings are planted than trees cut down each year. You’re also supporting local businesses and if you buy local then the transport mileage is much less.

Sustainable Christmas Trees 2 Pebble Magazine

An acre of Christmas trees puts out enough oxygen for 16 people

How do you make sure a real Christmas tree has been sustainably grown?
Look for the symbol of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The BCTGA members’ growing process is subject to strict practises including undertaking environmental reports on the area and ensuring that harvesting is respectful of bird- and wildlife that use the trees as their home.

How do you find a locally grown Christmas tree?
The BCTGA has a tree tracker linked to your postcode or head here for a list of Christmas tree farms in your area. Don’t be afraid to ask the guy who’s taken over the nearby abandoned car lot where his trees were grown.

Sustainable Christmas Trees Pebble Magazine

A fake tree needs to be used for 20 years before it’s more sustainable than a real one

Can Christmas trees be reused and replanted?
If you want to keep your tree after Christmas you should buy one that was either grown in a container (which will be on the small side) or a root-balled tree - meaning it comes with its roots and some earth in sacking to cause minimum disturbance to the tree. Treat it like any other plant in your home while you’ve got it decked out - that means watering it and not plonking it next to a radiator. Trees can drink up to a pint of water a day and watering it will also help it keep its needles. Once you’re Christmassed out, repot in a large pot and you might just have a ready made tree for next year.

How can you recycle a Christmas tree?
Most councils collect trees in early January for recycling. They’re mulched and used as compost. If you’ve got a wood chipper, then lucky you - free compost for you. Alternatively, Christmas tree branches can be used at the bottom of ponds to make hidey holes for fish. (That doesn’t mean flinging it in the nearest lake is ‘recycling’.)

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