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We’re all looking for ways to make our lives that little bit more sustainable, but when it comes to Christmas, it can be a challenge.
The holiday season is full of waste, from excess food to ridiculous amounts of packaging, not to mention the hidden environmental cost of deliveries and travel.
The good news is, there are plenty of things that we can do to make Christmas greener this year. Whether you consider switching up your traditional Christmas meal by including some meat-free or plant-based dishes, or buy locally-made gifts to cut down on the emissions generated by shipping, small changes can add up.
When it comes to buying your Christmas tree, the real vs fake debate has been raging for decades, but the environmental impact of your choice might surprise you.
On the face of it, you’d think a real Christmas tree is far worse for the environment than a fake one, right? It makes sense – deforestation is one of the leading forms of environmental destruction, so wouldn’t cutting down a tree just to put it in your living room be making things worse?
But as it turns out, buying a real Christmas tree each year can actually be more eco-friendly than buying a fake one, with studies showing that you’d have to reuse the same fake tree for at least five years, and ideally over several decades, in order for it to be a greener option than plumping for the real thing each year.
According to Elipsos and the American Christmas Tree Association, an individual real tree generates fewer carbon emissions than an individual artificial one, with the carbon impact of the fake tree only becoming minimised after several years’ use.
That’s not the only evidence to suggest real Christmas trees aren’t as bad for the environment as you might think. The Woodland Trust reports that – in the UK at least – Christmas tree farms tend to use sustainable tree farming practices, with as many as 10 trees planted for every one that is cut down.
That being said, there are a few caveats to remember if you’re looking to buy an environmentally sustainable real tree.
For one thing, it’s important to get your tree from as local a source as you can, to avoid generating emissions from packaging and shipping. And secondly, when it does come time to throw your tree away, it’s vital that you dispose of it responsibly so that it doesn’t end up in regular landfill, where it will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Thankfully, many cities offer Christmas tree collection services, with discarded trees turned into mulch or repurposed in other ways. And if that’s not an option where you live, there are likely to be other options for donating your used tree to somewhere where it will enjoy a second life.
Of course, if you already own a fake tree, this isn’t to say you should throw it out and start buying real ones instead. The longer you use your artificial tree for, the more environmentally friendly it becomes – and you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the needles!
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American Christmas Tree Association
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