On the Third Day of Christmas…

13 Dec

…my true love sent to me, a load of baubles in an evergreen tree!

I love Christmas trees. I love the smell, the colours, the way they change the room in such a dramatic way. A Christmas tree just makes day-to-day life that bit more glamorous and cheerful, which is perfect for the depths of mid-winter!

So what’s the greenest way to have a Christmas tree?

Real versus Fake?

Well, the first thing is that real trees are the more eco-friendly choice. This may seem counter-intuitive, when thinking about an artificial tree that can be used for years versus cutting down a living tree merely to stick it in your living room with decorations on it. But artificial trees are made using a PVC, so a petroleum-derived plastic, which is non-renewable and polluting. Lead and other additives are also used to make the PVC needles on artificial trees more malleable. The addition of lead can make these trees harmful, particularly to children (nothing like worrying about lead to dampen festive cheer!). They can shed an invisible dust of lead particles, especially when hoovering (see this article for more information). As they’re not bio-degradable, the afterlife of an artificial tree involves many years of polluting landfill…

On the other hand, real trees have less of a carbon impact. They usually absorb as much carbon as they’ll emit when disposed off. They’re also renewable, with  replacement trees planted for those harvested. While growing, they also act as a wildlife habitat. And they’re just so much nicer in your home (biased, moi?).

Tree Buying Tips

Look out for trees that have the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark, as this means they’ve been grown under responsible conditions. Try to buy from small-scale sustainable growers. You could also keep an eye out for Fair Trees, which supports fair trade practices in Georgia, where most of the seeds come from (you can find the trees online at Fairwindonline).

You can also choose to buy a tree with roots, that you can replant and use year after year. Our local highstreet florist stocks cute little trees in pots that would suit even tiny London backgardens.


The most fun part of the Christmas tree is decorating it. I have a peculiar horror of “fashions” in tree decorations – what happens if you buy red and gold decorations one year only for the fashion to be for blue and silver the next year? Do you just chuck all everything out? Seems not only wasteful but stupidly expensive…

In our family, we buy an ornament as a souvenir of places we visit. Myself and my husband started this tradition when we first got together 8 years ago and it means we buy 2 or 3 decorations a year. And each decoration has a special meaning for us, and it’s fun to remember the places we’ve been while putting them up. It also means we can support craft shops in places we visit without cluttering our tiny flat with too much stuff!

Homemade decorations are also loads of fun, particularly if children are involved in making them. Our Christmas tree at work has homemade decorations this year, made by staff members volunteering at craft sessions at a local day centre for the elderly. There are some lovely things on it. I’m particularly taken with the sparkly, upcycled CDs, like this one:

Or this one:

Of course a Christmas tree just wouldn’t be right without lights. The best choice is to choose LEDs. They’re much more energy efficient. And the simplest energy saving tip of all is to remember to switch them off when it’s not dark!

After Christmas

If you’re using a tree with roots, then of course you’re going to replant it after Christmas.  But many of us will be using a cut tree, so it’s vital to recycle it after use. Many councils and garden centres run recycling points, where you can drop off your tree for it to be turned into lovely mulch or composted properly.

Recycling your Christmas tree makes a great green new year’s resolution, it means you start the year as you mean to go on!


One Response to “On the Third Day of Christmas…”


  1. Christmas is coming… | Low Impact Parenting - December 20, 2011

    […] with small, random gifts. And my husband now loves doing this for his own family. – we’ll continue to collect single Christmas tree decorations from places we visit, as this is a tradition that myself and husband started together. – I’ll do my best to get […]

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