Christmas Trees – Real or Fake?

Dec 4, 2020 | One small change, Sustainability

There is something very magical amount the smell of a real Christmas tree at this time of year, a delight to the senses and for many of us it evokes nostalgic memories of past years.  When I was growing up we had a very plastic looking Christmas tree that got bit ragged towards the end of its 20+ year life; we didn’t really notice at the time as it was the ritual around putting it up, arguments over standing on Christmas lights, complaining about how badly the decorations were put away the previous year etc etc.  All a part of the festive fun!!?

So should you go real or fake?  If you have a fake tree, the environment will thank you if you keep using it for as long as you can.  The environmental challenge for artificial trees is how there’re disposed of at their end of life; most artificial trees are made out of PVC which is difficult to recycle, so a lot of them end up in landfill.

If you are deciding whether you should buy a real tree or an artificial tree, the environmental argument runs like this:

  • The carbon footprint (CO2e) of making a 6.5 ft artificial Christmas tree is approximately 40kg which arises from raw material emissions (oil) of 27kg, manufacturing emissions of 10kg and transport emissions of 3kg.
  • A real tree sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while it grows; however Christmas Trees are short rotation crops with a growing life of under 10 years so the amount of carbon sequestered has a limited benefit.
  • A real Christmas tree that is recycled / composted has very low carbon emissions as the carbon exchange between the growing and composting equalises, the emissions that do arise are from the initial land planting and transport of the trees from the field to the purchasers’ home.
  • If a real 6.5 foot tree is chucked into landfill then the CO2e emissions increases significantly to 16 kg as decomposition in landfill emits methane gas which is 29 times more potent than CO2.
  • Most real trees sold in Ireland are grown here as we have a great climate for growing conifer and this helps job creation locally as well as lowering the carbon miles of transport.

Perhaps the best environmental solution, (which is not practical for everyone!) is to bring a pot grown tree inside for the festive season, keeping it watered and putting it back outside in January;  a bit of an annual sauna for a Christmas Tree!

Whatever you choose to do, we hope you enjoy it and have a very happy and memorable Christmas!

#sustainability #onesmallchange