Sunday, December 17, 2006

Real or Artificial Christmas Tree?

We get a real Christmas tree each year which we decorate with tasteful colour-themed decorations, and we also have an elderly artificial tree which the children decorate with all the hand-made decorations that come home from school. But which is more environmentally friendly?

Bob Flowerdew, the famous organic gardener, has announced that he is getting an artificial tree this year which he claims is more environmentally friendly. This flies in the face of popular opinion that real trees are the greener choice. Triple Pundit, the blog which does the maths about various environmental dilemmas, has compared real v. artificial Christmas trees, and concluded that Bob has got it wrong on this one.

But I'm glad that he raised the issue anyway. Some trees are flown great distances for the lucrative seasonal trade, so I recommend asking the seller where your tree was grown. You want to make sure it is as local as possible. Also avoid the shady characters who chainsaw natural woodland by night for a quick Christmas buck. You want a purpose-grown tree which will be replaced by the grower. And do make sure you recycle your tree when Twelfth Night has passed.

Consider other options as well, such as buying a living Christmas tree which will adorn your patio year round and be brought indoors each Christmas. Or you could plant a tree as a Christmas gift for someone, or for yourself to offset the carbon cost of celebrating Christmas.


Nerd in the Country said...

We have always been fans of natural trees. When I was a child, my parents used to drive us to a local tree farm (owned by friends), where we would select and cut our own tree. Now, we get our trees out of the middle pasture (which has way too many blue spruce for its own good). A few years ago, when we were at my parents' cottage, I selected a small balsum fir that was growing under the power line because the trees were too crowded there, and because they would be cut down by the power company if they got too big.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Hello, Ray. Long time no see! Your blog went quiet for quite a while and I got out of the habit of checking it. If you're posting again I'll go and catch up. It was always a good read, and some stunning photography, too.

John Curtin said...

You could call your local council/countryside centre and ask if they have a weed tree programme where they invite the public to dig up fir trees that are encroaching on common land - that's what we do and get a free real tree (about 3foot actually!) each year!

Nerd in the Country said...

Hi Melanie

I have a few things slated to put on my blog (including pictures of that white stuff), but have been lazy lately.

I forgot to mention that we recycle our trees by tossing them into the goat pen. They have it munched down to bare branches within a few days.

Celsias said...

Hello Melanie. I'm a tad confused. You say that Triplepundit says real trees are the greener way to go, but this doesn't seem to be the case:

"Well, it turns out that trees sequester somewhere around 172 kg (some as low as 36 kg, some as high as 342 kg) of CO2 per year. This would indicate that it is far more ecologically friendly to buy a fake Christmas tree once, at a CO2 cost of 42.18 kg, than to cut down a tree every year at a CO2 cost of 172 kg (annual for at least 25 years)."

The thing with fake trees is they last for years, as opposed to killing a tree every year.

I also did an Xmas Tree blurb which has a couple of ideas that may be of interest.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Hi celsias. Did you read all of the Triplepundit article? He goes on to say:

"Most Christmas trees are grown on tree farms and not in actual forests. These tree farms sequester CO2 constantly during the young trees' period of vigorous growth. Since they were grown for eventual harvest, we are not actually decreasing the amount of CO2 sequestration capacity, but increasing it."

Celsias said...

Sorry! :o) I had read that story a while back (as you'll see from the date of my post). I remember, based on his calculations, making my own sub-calculations based on the weight of my own plastic fantastic (about a third of the weight of his obviously more impressive beast!). On top of that I factored in tree harvesting realities from the areas I have spent most of my life (not US), where there are no Christmas tree farms, so they are taken from forests. In my mind this weighed against the 'real thing'. I should have re-read his post before commenting here!!

mel's sister Steph said...

I chatted to mel about this while visiting. i have an ancient fake tree which I inherited from our parents. it's still going strong & intend to use it till the end of my days. I know it'll end up as a plastic lump on landfill, but I'd rather keep going with the one that'#s been in use for years, than bin it & change to natural. I know where you're all coming from & if I hadn't inherited a fake, i hope I'd have had the sense to opt for a locally grown real tree.

Daver said...

I personally would buy the tree from a Christmas tree farm and then after Christmas, I would plant it into my backyard and then re-cut it down next year before Christmas. It's environmentally sound, and it saves money in the long run.

Chris said...

Not everybody has a backyard in which to plant a tree, in which case the chances are it will just get thrown out with the rest of the trash. The environmentalists make a big deal about how 'green' purchasing a live tree is, but I don't really think that most people take into account the extra gas, time and effort that is involved. When you buy artificial trees you're not only saving a significant amount of money in the cost the actual tree, you're also ensuring that you not using your SUV to make even more unnecessary journeys.

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