Communication for Sustainable Development

Sustainability and Christmas Trees: Let's Get Real

christmas treeImage by peminumkopi
Christmas is, by all standards, a not very sustainable holiday. People shop, travel and eat much more than they should, and their carbon footprint goes through their snow-covered roofs. Of course there are ways of mitigating the Christmas carbon extravaganza by traveling using the least dirty means of transport (rail, if possible), sharing eco presents and making a meal with organic, local produce that excludes meat.
But there's that elephant in the room called 'the Christmas tree'. It's big and it invites the question: how green is it? For a while some people tried to plug it to the world that plastic Christmas trees were greener because they could be re-used. However, a thorough comparison between the two options illustrates that real trees are more sustainable for several reasons including the fact that in most cases the plastic ones are only used a couple of times. Besides, who wants to increase demand for yet more toxic plastic in the world?

So, yes, getting a real Christmas tree is more sustainable than getting a fake one. But even better than that is renting a Christmas tree, an idea that has taken root in England where it was championed during the famous Ideal Home Show At Christmas that took place mid-November.

When people rent a Christmas tree they get a pruned and potted plant for the season celebration. Then it is collected in the new year and replanted to be rented out the following Christmas. Of course the tree will keep growing and once it is too big for a home they will be planted out in schools, nursing homes etc., and absorb quite a bit of carbon, according to the Little Tree Company, which supports the Christmas tree rental scheme.

If such a scheme is not available in your neck of the wood, there are a few details to look out for when it comes to choosing a sustainable Christmas tree. First, the hard facts: they do not come from fairytale crops where every tree is harvested by a rosy-cheeked Norwegian. They come from monocrops that are often sprayed with fertilizers and herbicides.

So, when sourcing a real Christmas tree, look out for providers of organic Christmas trees (Greenpromise has a list). Another tip: try to find a tree that has been grown as close to home as possible. If you get a felled tree instead of a potted tree, inquire from your local authority whether it offers a collection service. This kind of planning is essential if you don't want to end up with a massive tree in the house and not knowing what to do with it.

Finally, you can stay away completely from the fake versus real and go for the arty approach to sustainable Christmas trees. This reusable eco Christmas tree looks nothing short of fabulous and would add an imaginative touch to the decor (besides busting the kitschy potential of a traditional Christmas tree!). Or you can turn popcorn into a Christmas tree, which should be fun a lot of fun to make.
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