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Real or fake Christmas tree: what’s better for the environment?

Have you already decked the halls? Or waiting for this weekend? Although the big day is going to look a little different this year, the Christmas tree is the must have centrepiece of every festive home. But what's better for the environment: a real or fake Christmas tree?

2 minute read

real or fake christmas tree

A recent survey commissioned by retailer Next has found that despite half of us feeling that the pandemic has put a dampener on this year’s celebrations, 46% of us are planning to make more of an effort to celebrate in our homes.

The survey by Next went on the reveal that 80% of people agreed that the tree is the most important Christmas decoration.

There’s no doubt a real tree looks beautiful. A truly majestic part of nature right there in our living room, giving off a festive scent of pine. But fake trees can be re-used year on year. So which is best?

But which Christmas tree is best for the environment?

Most real Christmas trees are grown as a crop and not removed from natural forests. So, they are a sustainable product, cut down and then replaced by a seedling.

And before it’s untimely demise to stand in your living room and be destroyed by your lockdown pet, it was a living tree, naturally absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen.

But be warned. If you want to minimise your environmental impact you should buy a tree that is locally sourced. Otherwise the process of transporting it to your home can rack up quite the hefty carbon footprint.

real or fake christmas tree

Even better would be a potted Christmas tree with roots, so it can be planted outside after Christmas.

If you are getting a tree without roots, you also need to make sure you dispose of it responsibly. Either chop up and mulch down for compost, or for burning. Or check your local authority Christmas Tree collection service.

For all these reasons, according to the Carbon Trust, a real Christmas tree has a significantly lower carbon footprint than an artificial tree.

real or fake christmas tree

Surely re-using an artificial tree is good for the environment too?

Not necessarily. An artificial tree comes from an energy-intensive production process.

If you choose an artificial Christmas tree, you need to use it for around 10 years for its environmental impact to be lower than real trees. So make sure you choose one that looks like it is built to last, and keep re-using it.

Happy decorating!

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