Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A four-trunk artificial Christmas tree has a lifecycle of about 24 weeks, so more energy is used in cutting, packing and decorating compared to a four-trunk natural one
The artificial Christmas tree has a niche, but the problem is you’re spending more on the one that’s not real – and adding lots of chemicals to the environment while doing so.
Manufacturers typically use eucalyptus or treated pine, but there are alternatives which are simpler to maintain.
Over the last few decades, demand for the artificially coloured tree has taken off.
But a four-trunk artificial Christmas tree has a lifecycle of about 24 weeks compared to nine months for one made of natural larch or wapiti wood, according to the Environment Agency (EA).
Image caption There are approximately 700,000 Christmas trees made of eucalyptus, the primary type used in an artificial tree
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Larch and wapiti are both native to the UK
There are approximately 700,000 Christmas trees made of eucalyptus, the primary type used in an artificial tree, according to the Agency.
It says that compared to an evergreen natural tree, the extended cut down period for an artificial one will result in more energy used in cutting, packing and decorating compared to a natural one.
While it doesn’t quite get to the truth, the Natural Christmas Tree Company says that the carbon footprint of an artificial Christmas tree is 90% smaller than one made from real trees, and gives eco information online on how to save energy and help the environment.
Some tree farm suppliers – such as Seeds for Nature – promote what they call a “natural Christmas tree” and want the public to support their producers.
Longer term the company believes that using natural trees to cut down, haul away, decorate and deliver for Christmas time will eventually mean less pressure on the national and local forests and land.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The endangered Sierra Nevada tree can be harvested over 4,000 years old
When it comes to the 21st century, the last blue spruce forests in the UK will be gone in 60 years, the Department for the Environment has predicted.
The endangered Sierra Nevada tree, grown in Europe, can be harvested over 4,000 years old – a lot longer than an artificial Christmas tree will last.
Each year the amount of food, fuel and plastic production required for Christmas has grown, so ultimately, it’s the carbon footprint in the long term that has to be considered.
For the shorter term, an artificial tree replaces a natural one, but if you take the last spruce you’ve cut down and throw it in the bin, you’re wasting a part of our environment.
“As this is a seasonal display, often bulbs have been used which are now having to be ripped out and recycled,” said Cathie Wimberley, senior wildflower programme manager at Ryedale Wildlife Trust.
“This is a special time of year for the birds, mammals and insects in the area – we would always prefer any one of these species to see a natural forest, so we like the idea of restoring some forest for Christmas displays.”
As for some of us who don’t like the thought of leaving a tree in the garden all winter, check whether your local council’s Christmas tree recycling scheme will help you dispose of a bunch of non-native rubbish and contribute to the lessening of the carbon footprint of a natural Christmas tree.
The Real Christmas Tree Company is also a scheme for your Christmas tree to take to a person’s garden.
You’ll need to cut the tree down before placing it on a material surface which is the correct shape for the roof, porch or path.
The material on the surface should weigh a little over one full box of Christmas cards, so you can see why this is a good option if you don’t have a green roof.