Monday, 5 December 2011

Deck the Halls

The weeks before Christmas are always a slightly stressful time but if you start considering the ethical and environmental side of everything it gets even more complicated. It's often a time when forgetting green habits from the rest of the year is very tempting, such as sourcing ethical products and looking for local sustainable goods.
This weekend we bought and decorated our Christmas Tree. The great environmental Christmas Tree debate rages every year: Is an artificial tree or a real tree better for the environment?

There are lots of different arguments and things to consider such as where the real trees are grown, how long you keep the fake tree and how you dispose of either of them. I think real is better but here are a few pros and cons for you to think about:


  • Young trees capture carbon dioxide as they grow so growing lots of young trees each year mean taking carbon out of the environment which is good
  • You need to try and find local trees from sustainable forests so that you minimise transport emissions and also make sure that more trees will be planted next year.
  • When deposing of your tree composting is good as it then goes back into nature and provides nutrients for other plants but burning uses a sustainable fuel (wood) which may be better than coal or oil.
  • Made of plastic (PVC) which requires large amounts of energy to produce and also creates nasty by products such as lead which can pollute the natural environment. 
  • The average lifetime of a fake tree is actually only 6 years, people tend to throw them away after that. And when they get thrown away they will remain on rubbish heaps for hundreds of years before the metal and plastic decompose.
  • Most fake trees are made in the far east and so the transportation costs and emissions from them are huge.
Some tips I've found on the internet for buying your trees are:

  • Try to find an organic or sustainably-managed producer, preferably local
  • If you have the garden space, consider a living tree with roots so you can plant it out in the New Year
  • Try not to not use preservative sprays to stop needle fall. If that's a problem buy one of the varieties that holds it's needles for longer, and keep it as cool as possible over the holiday. Trees that have been recently cut down in the UK will hold their needles better than imported varieties cut down weeks before so they can be shipped here in time.
  • If you have purchased a cut tree then make sure you take it to your recycling centre in the New Year, most local councils run schemes now (and many Scouts groups organise collection points). Alternatively shred it yourself and use as mulch or pathing.

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