environment General

Real Christmas Trees: Are they better for the environment?

Amidst calls for people to live more sustainably and with the climate crisis not showing any signs of slowing down, this Christmas many people may be left wondering, which tree is better for the environment, real or fake? With many factors to consider, it turns out the answer is not as simple as you might think.

By Amy Connaughton

Amidst calls for people to live more sustainably and with the climate crisis not showing any signs of slowing down, this Christmas many people may be left wondering, which tree is better for the environment, real or fake? With many factors to consider, it turns out the answer is not as simple as you might think.

In a recent survey of 100 participants carried out by TheCity.ie, it was found that 69% of people will be using a fake Christmas tree this year, while 31% will be using a real tree.

A huge 91% of people think that buying a fake tree and reusing it every year is better for the environment, while only 9% of people believe that buying a real tree every year is better.    

Out of the 9% of people who believe that buying a real tree each year is more environmentally friendly, 30% of these people will be using a fake tree this Christmas.

According to The Carbon Trust, a two-metre tall real tree will have a carbon footprint of just 3.5kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, this is only if that tree is disposed of through a wood chipper. If the tree is thrown away and ends up in a landfill, the carbon footprint increases hugely to 16kg CO2.

For two-metre fake trees, the carbon footprint is a whopping 40kg of CO2. Though this figure makes it seem like getting a real tree each year is the smarter option, Carbon Trust says that if you re-used an artificial tree for 12 years it would make the carbon footprint greener than a real tree that was put in a wood chipper.

However, how you dispose of your tree is not the only deciding factor on how environmentally friendly it is, manufacturing is also a factor to consider. Fake trees are made from plastic and are usually shipped over long distances, mostly from China.

Another thing to consider is that real Christmas trees absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which is good for offsetting global warming, whereas to mass-produce artificial trees, factories emit huge amounts of industrial emissions into the atmosphere which only adds to the problem of global warming.

So what is the answer? If you already use an artificial Christmas tree, try and re-use it for at least 12 years. However, it would seem that the greener option is to buy a real tree every year and recycle it through a wood chipper or re-pot it in your back garden so that it can be re-used every year. This way, the tree would have negligible or even negative emissions.

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