Real or Fake Christmas trees - what does the research say?

8th December 2014

Day 2 of the EAUC Sustainable Christmas is Biodiversity

In the long-running debate of real versus fake, real trees have been crowned the more eco-friendly choice. In fact, a 2009 study by Montreal consulting firm Ellipsos showed that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut real Christmas tree every year!

Although artificial trees can last for many years they are made from metal and derivatives of PVC, which requires large amounts of energy to make and also creates by-products which can be harmful to both the environment and human health. In addition, they are not biodegradable or recyclable so will end up in landfill. Most artificial trees sold in the UK are made in Taiwan and China and so have additional energy costs associated with transport and also are likely to be made by poorly treated and low paid workers.

Real trees are carbon neutral, absorbing as much carbon dioxide as they grow as they will emit when burnt or left to decompose. They are a renewable crop, usually planted on low-grade land and are biodegradable. To ensure the lowest impact, buy from a local small scale producer with FSC certification. And for the lowest impact, choose a tree with roots and plant it out in the garden (or in a pot) after the festivities are over.

What do you think? Head on over to Facebook to weigh in!

Looking after birds and other creatures in your garden this Christmas:

• Melt a hole in the ice on ponds to allow the wildlife to drink, and enter and exit the water. Fill a sauce pan with hot water and sit it on the ice until a hole has been melted. Do not hit or crack ice as this can send shockwaves through the water that harms wildlife.
• Be careful when you turn compost heaps. As these are often warm, they can be the winter resort of frogs, toads and other animals.
• Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink, as well as birds.
• Make an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful.
• In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring.
• Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.

Biodiversity is a Framework within Learning in Future Environments (LiFE)
> Check out more resources on “Biodiversity” on the Sustainability Exchange
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