This bizarre year has certainly felt never-ending, but rows of Christmas trees, bundles of holly, and twinkling fairy lights have ushered in some much-needed hope. The need for festivity has never felt more desperate, and many are embracing Christmas preparations as a welcome distraction from a tiresome pandemic.
Unfortunately, the holiday season also brings with it an abundance of waste: single-use decorations, lots of food, and of course Christmas trees. For National Tree Dressing Day, we look at how you can choose a sustainably grown tree, and how to properly dispose of it in the New Year.
How to choose a sustainable Christmas tree
Some may assume that because fake Christmas trees can be reused, they are the more sustainable option, but this isn’t true. Fake trees are made out of plastics and petroleum-based products, and they’re often shipped overseas. This makes their carbon footprint pretty extraordinary. They are also often replaced after just a few years, meaning they end up decomposing in a landfill for centuries.
The most sustainable Christmas tree option is buying a potted tree you can keep in the house or plant outside after Christmas. But if you don’t have a green thumb, buying a real tree locally is the second most sustainable option.
Spruce and fir trees are a slow crop often grown on land that wouldn’t be suited for much else. In the seven to ten years it takes to grow a two-metre Christmas tree, the farm acts as a carbon sink as well as a refuge for birds and other wildlife.
When choosing a Christmas tree, try to buy from a local farm to support your local community and cut down on transportation emissions. You can do this by looking up your nearby tree farm or asking at your nearby temporary lot where their trees were grown.
If you want to go one step further, make sure the trees were grown sustainably by looking for the symbol of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This means that the farmers adhered to strict growing practices that take into account environmental impact and respect for wildlife.
How to make your trimmings sustainable
Sadly, most Christmas tree trimmings are not sustainable. Baubles and tinsel are often made in factories out of plastics and chemical-based materials. Their carbon footprints are high before they are even hung on your tree. Then if they break or are tossed after a few years, they’re destined to end up in a landfill.
If you already own baubles and decorations don’t fret! The key is to make things last as long as possible, and if you do need to get rid, try to sell your used decorations on to give them a second life.
If you are buying new trimmings, here are some tips to make them sustainable and ethical:
While it may be convenient to order all of your decorations on Amazon, it’s certainly not sustainable for the planet or for your local high street. Instead, try cultivating a collection of decorations that is handmade from more sustainable materials, and supports a local artisan or Fairtrade organisation.
If supporting a local artisan isn’t financially viable – become one yourself! Get out the glue gun and string and use as much natural material as possible. Dried citrus slices make for a festive garland, or chestnuts and pinecones can become colourful baubles.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective, sustainable, and easy resource for Christmas decorations – try scouring Facebook or second-hand shops/websites. Giving baubles, lights, and Christmas jumpers a second life is a good way to celebrate the holidays sustainably on a budget.
When it comes to your lights, remember to opt for LED fairy lights to trim your tree and whatever else you may want to make sparkle. LEDs are brighter, more energy-efficient, less expensive, and help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Sustainable Christmas tree disposal
According to The Carbon Trust, a 2-metre tall tree releases the methane equivalent of 16kg carbon dioxide as it decomposes. That may not seem so significant, but the government estimates that all of the UK’s tossed trees weigh in at around 160,000 tonnes. Fly-tipped trees can also become costly for local authorities, with each tree costing over £2 to remove in some districts.
There are five ways to sustainably dispose of your tree:
- Replant: If you bought a potted Christmas tree, you can replant it in your garden or find a local community garden that may want it.
- Recycle: Drop your tree off at a recycling centre where it can be turned into chippings. This will then be used for paths, gardens or compost.
- Have it collected: Check in with your local authority for a collection service.
- Contact a charity: This can be a great hassle-free way to give back this Christmas. Some charities will pick up your tree and recycle it for a donation. Others use it to build things like flood barriers in communities around the UK. Either way, it saves you the trouble of taking care of it yourself and keeps it far away from a landfill.
- Alternatively, you could chop up your tree yourself and either add it to your compost heap, use as firewood, or build something completely new!
At ESS we take sustainable waste management seriously, which means that proper recycling is a top priority. Our goal is to help businesses reduce waste of any kind, from actual waste to water and energy, by streamlining utility management practices. If you are looking to reduce your business’s waste costs and become more environmentally conscious, contact us at ESS today.
ESS wishes you a very green and merry Christmas season!