Christmas trees: Making the most sustainable choice

‘Tis the season… who else is ready to dec the halls?

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of decorations, shopping and food overload at Christmas but, before we get too carried away with the festive fun, it’s important to think about how to keep things as sustainable as possible at this time of year.

And picking a Christmas tree is a big part of it.

So, how do we choose a sustainable tree? What is the right choice? Well, the answer isn’t actually that simple – because everything we do has an impact. So, really, it’s about measuring that impact and deciding the best way to reduce it for you and your situation.

Here, we’ve highlighted the best options to help you keep your impact as limited as possible:

  1. Potted Christmas trees

If you’re looking to get a real Christmas tree, opting for a potted one that’s been grown locally is a great option. Why? Because you can use it again and again.

By keeping a potted Christmas tree, you can put it out in the garden for the rest of the year (or even plant it) and bring it back in for the following one. Keeping it every year will help capture carbon, attract wildlife and minimise impact, while saving you money in the long run.

  1. Cut Christmas Trees

If you don’t have space to keep a potted tree year-round, another good option is a cut tree – but do make sure you find something that has been both locally and sustainably sourced.

Check out different local producers to find out which ones have the best track record before you dive in and buy one, or make sure to ask when you’re looking. Anything that has been flown in from abroad, or has travelled across the country, won’t be as sustainable.

However, more importantly, think carefully about what to do with the tree when everything is over. Fir trees actually give off a lot of greenhouse gases when they start to rot, so composting isn’t the salvation option.

Instead, look for local groups who will be calling for tree donations to help dune conservation initiatives, or leave them to dry for woodchip. Cornwall Council will pick up real trees after Christmas, and there are some more nature solutions from Gardeners World here

  1. Plastic Trees

If you already have a plastic Christmas tree, don’t rush to throw it away – it could actually be one of the most sustainable options on this list.

And that’s because, over 12 years of use, a plastic tree will have produced less carbon than the process of producing 12 cut trees over the same time period. So, if you keep your plastic tree for every year for the rest of your life, you have negated its impact.

The key thing here is to think about what happens to that tree when you have had enough of it, or you pass away. Unlike us, plastic trees last forever – they are the ultimate family heirloom. Charity shops take them and businesses, schools, charities and all sorts of organisations may want one too. Basically a plastic tree is for eternity … not just for Christmas. So think about the succession plan.

mother and daughter decorating a tree.

  1. Get Creative

Arguably, the most sustainable thing you could do is to not have a Christmas tree at all (but who’s ready for that step?! We love all things festive).

But we can avoid the festive excess, by getting creative. If you’ve already got house plants, give them a holiday twist with your usual twinkly lights and decs. All the Christmas vibes without the Christmas waste.

Alternatively, opt for a Scandi-style Christmas by foraging in your local woods for a beautiful broken branch to act in place of your tree. Anything goes, and you might just find something even better.

For more sustainability tips this Christmas, keep an eye on our blog and social channels (just click on Facebook and Instagram).