Is there such a thing as a green Christmas tree?

Have you thought about what you are going to do with your Christmas tree once the holiday season is over?

What you can do depends on whether you have a real or artificial tree. Either way, after 6 January 2017, you probably won’t need it for the rest of year.

When you throw your Christmas tree away, there will be an impact of the environment. The question is how much will you affect the environment.

The common wisdom appears to be that real Christmas trees are better for the environment because they can be decomposed into compost and be recycled or be turned into wood chippings for reuse. Decomposition is a natural process that produces greenhouse gas emissions. However, an artificial tree, which is made of plastic, produces more than twice the greenhouse emissions than that of a real tree that does to landfill and more than 10 times that of a real tree that is incinerated. It is also believed that an artificial has a higher initial carbon footprint, because it is made of plastic, which comes from oil, and may be imported from China.

All local authorities will provide some form of recycling service for Christmas trees. But recycling, landfill and incineration are not the be-all-and-end-all of waste management. According to the waste hierarchy, which forms the basis of E.U. and U.K. waste policy, reuse and prevention should be seen as higher priorities.

The advantage of an artificial Christmas tree is that it can be stored away in January and reused every year. Real trees can be reused – for example, to replant in gardens, shore up flood defences or offset carbon emissions – only if they still have their roots. But they can still do that anyway if they are not chopped down in the first place. But if a real tree is sold without its roots, as it often is, it cannot be reused. In that case, using one artificial tree for 10 years produces the same amount of carbon emissions as buying a new, real tree a year for 10 years.

A full version of this post was published by The Conversation.

 

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