The Carbon Cost of your Christmas Tree

As the Partner in Wales for the Carbon Literacy Project and a growing team working on our consultancy offer– we are often considering, as a Team, the Carbon cost of everyday choices. Sometimes, at Christmas we can get overwhelmed by wanting to enjoy the festive season to the fullest but also make the most ethical and environmentally friendly choices.

We’re hoping the below considerations from Karolina can help you to do that regarding your Christmas tree;

According to Carbon Trust, the fake tree has a much higher carbon footprint than a real tree, because of the processes that go into producing one.

The estimated carbon footprint of a fake tree is 40kg, compared to 16kgs for a real tree (if both end in a landfill).

So, the emissions to avoid after Christmas aren’t the ones produced by eating too many sprouts. The real issue is to do with the disposal of the trees – real or fake.  If both trees end up in landfill – the fake tree might take hundreds of years to decompose, whilst the real tree will emit methane – a very potent greenhouse gas.

If you want to avoid these trees going to landfill, you can reuse the fake tree and pass it on to your family (think of it as an heirloom tree – a forever tree that can be passed down through the generations). Whereas a real tree can be chopped and turned into wood chips that can later be used for mulching.

The best thing you can do to keep your Carbon emissions down is to plant a tree in a pot, watch it grow, bring it indoors for Christmas and take it outdoors until the next year. Or, adorn your existing plants at home with festive LED lights.

Growing real Christmas trees at mass might take away precious land that can be used for creating carbon sinks, in other words, real forests for people and wildlife.

So, if you want to be environmentally friendly this season, use what you have at home and garden already, have a friendly chat with small scale suppliers as to how they manage their land to learn about the process of growing trees, and focus on planting trees or shrubs at the right time and at the right place in your community.

Dr Karolina Rucinska, Sustainability Consultant