Bringing home a tree marks the start of Christmas for many. It’s one of the best festive traditions to get us in the Yuletide mood.
We tend to know when the time is “right” to put up the tree. If you’re the sort of person who plays Christmas songs from October onwards then you’ve probably already bagged yourself a cute conifer.
But it’s less easy to know which is the right kind of tree. As with every environmentally friendly choice, it involves stretching time out - looking into the whole life cycle of the tree, artificial or real.
Three steps to make sure you buy a sustainable Christmas tree
It’s a strange question to ask of a living being, but from scaling up to rainforests we know that trees have the potential to either lock away or release CO2 based on how they are handled.
Look for the FSC label
In the UK, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-labelled trees certify that your tree was grown in a well-managed forest, with minimal pesticides and care given to other forest plants and animals. Crucially, it will also be replaced. Meaning the dead tree in your living room isn’t leaving a tree-shaped hole in the world.
Save on tree miles
Buying locally is the best way to cut out the travel-related emissions of shipping pines across Europe, often from Denmark and Germany.
You don’t need a new tree every year
Reusing what you’ve got is an important tenet of sustainable living. So if you’ve already got an artificial tree in the attic, dust it off with pride! A plastic tree you already own can use less CO2 than a real pine across its lifetime if you use it for more than 10 years - according to the Carbon Trust.
Hole Farm Trees in Devon is one place you can feel confident ordering from. Its Christmas trees are wild grown on the family farm, wrapped in biodegradable netting, freshly cut to order and delivered free to homes in North London.
How to dispose of a Christmas tree responsibly
Even Christmas trees aren’t just for Christmas. There’s a number of ways to give yours a good send-off.
As well as sourcing trees locally, London-based Green Elf Trees operate a ‘responsible tree removal service’ in early January. This helps to mitigate the ‘mass littering of trees’ on the capital’s pavements. The collected trees are recycled: made into wood chippings and composted, or looked after if still living.
If you’re interested in giving some temporary lodging to a tree, Green Elf Trees have you covered too. Their ‘greenest’ tree is a pot-grown one you can rent for the season, then return or keep it for yourself.
Alternatively, you can opt to ‘give a tree a home’, taking in a five to seven foot beauty later in December to use up leftover trees from the South West woodland.
The Green Elf delivery team are made up of musicians and out-of-work entertainers in London who have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. You’ll even be given access to some of their work on the Green Elf playlist when you order a tree, spreading Christmas cheer as well as supporting one of the most sustainable services around.
Eco-friendly alternatives to Christmas trees
If you’re ready to give up Christmas trees once and for all, there are still lots of pretty ways to decorate a room and (crucially) create some sparkle and excitement in the present corner.
One really simple idea is that adopted by Naked Larder, a zero waste shop in south London. Owner Phili Denning and her family show how you can tie together a few bamboo sticks and string lights up around them to make a ‘Tree Pod’.
You could create a similar effect by fastening a bunch of light-strung tree branches to a wall or ceiling.
Once you’ve got your Christmas tree - having figured out its past and future - recycled wooden decorations are another great way to sustainably jazz it up.