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This year, more that ever before, people are more aware of plastic pollution It’s been with us in increasing severity, for decades. But we are now on ‘plastic alert’ thanks to a greater awareness of environmental influences and influencers including Sir David Attenborough of course. So how does this affect your tree choice at Christmas?
Some people assume that a fake tree is kinder to the planet than a real one, because they don’t like the idea of cutting down a live plant. However, responsible growers plant two trees for every Christmas tree sold. The Christmas tree industry is a healthy, growing business which employs local people working on the land. The trees are regarded as a crop in a similar way as growing a field of barley. According to the Carbon Trust, real Christmas trees can have a carbon-neutral environmental impact, depending on where they are grown, how they are transported and the method used for disposal.
Most artificial Christmas trees, however, are considered to have a heavy carbon footprint. They are manufactured using plastics and other unnatural products, consuming considerable energy. Their transport involves using large amounts of energy and often copious amounts of air miles and resources. At the end of their useful life they are rarely bio-degradable and they therefore end up in landfill sites.
However, the life of an artificial Christmas tree is actually quite long. They will normally be used, year after year, for decades. They are not normally considered to be single-use-plastic. It's sometimes very difficult to know if a Christmas tree is fake or real.
So there are plenty of factors to consider when deciding which sort of tree to buy. If you have already purchased an artificial tree, you may as well use it!
Spruce and fir tree alternatives
Friends of the Earth (FOE) charity has pointed out that there could be other alternatives too. Different tree species could be adopted in order to ‘fight the climate crisis, boost biodiversity and support wildlife’. The general recommendation is to use a tree that can be planted in the ground afterwards. Then it can continue its important life after its stint as a decoration.
Not all trees will be suitable for indoor use over Christmas, of course. Some will find the atmosphere too hot and dry. Others will suffer when you try to acclimatise them outdoors again when it’s all over.
Let’s take a look at trees that might make a charming spruce or fir substitute:
- Container-grown holly would be pretty. The leaves can be a bit spiky but a young holly tree has a good shape. One with berries is half-way to being decorated already!
- Olive trees might give a Mediterranean twist to Christmas. These aren’t generally heavily clothed in foliage but they would look charming with a few discreet decorations and twinkly lights.
- Yew trees would fit the bill but beware of them around children and pets as all parts of the tree are poisonous.
- Palm trees of all sorts are a possibility – except their fronds aren’t very easy to decorate because of the large scale of the leaves.
- Deciduous trees such as apple, pear, Acers or similar, might survive an indoor environment for a while, provided they were watered and kept away from radiators and fires. But these are deciduous so you would have to decorate the branches rather than foliage.
- A sawn branch or collection of twigs, fastened securely into a base, could also look stunning if decorated appropriately.
Deck the halls
General decorations around the home can easily be made from the hedgerows. Evergreen conifer swags and garlands, brightened with ribbons, cones and dried fruit, make for charming mantlepiece or stairway cheer. Door rings can be fashioned from holly or laurel and table decorations can be formed from any number of garden delights. Just be sure to guard naked, flickering candle flames from tinder-dry decorations of any nature.
Glittering baubles might not suit the needs of those who have an environmentally conscious Christmas code. But there are wooden alternatives that have their own rustic charm, plus glass, paper, cardboard and even knitted decorations that will add an atmosphere of their own.