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Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Christmas Tree Buying Guide

How to buy a Christmas tree that's better for the environment this Christmas and for years to come


Updated Wednesday, 25 October 2023 by Charlie Gill

Finding a properly eco-friendly, sustainable Christmas tree isn’t actually as easy as it first seems.

There are countless points of view as to whether fake trees or real trees are better, and what about the alternatives like renting a tree or picking a reusable wooden Christmas tree?

One thing is for certain, we all love putting them up at Christmas time. In fact, it's estimated that in the UK, 8 million real Christmas trees are bought each year. Here's our guide to help you choose the most eco Christmas tree for your house this year. 

Eco-friendly Christmas trees

The Environmental Impact of Real vs Fake Christmas Trees

This really depends on the type of Christmas tree you buy, what it’s made from, and how long you plan on using it before throwing it away. While a fake tree may be reusable, if it’s made from a synthetic material (i.e. plastic), then you would have to keep your fake tree for 10 years for it to have the same carbon footprint as using a real tree every year. 

Plastic also takes thousands of years to degrade once it reaches landfill, and even then only breaking down into highly polluting and possibly toxic micro-plastics that contaminate water supplies, kill marine life and might even be making their way into our bodies. When you take it all into account, that new reusable plastic tree is no longer really sustainable at all.  

Real trees on the other hand can release carbon dioxide and methane when disposed of in the wrong way by breaking down in landfill sites. These trees are often grown with fertilisers which can cause damage to wildlife and soil conditions, and use up a lot of land while they’re growing. 

Even if you purchase a real tree that’s grown sustainably, it won’t be reusable and you’ll have to buy another next year, making it an unsustainable option.  

Alternative wooden Christmas trees

So what are the alternatives? Sustainable Christmas trees 

For your Christmas tree to be a sustainable tree, it needs to be produced sustainably and be reusable for many christmases to come! Luckily you do have a few more-environmentally-friendly options to choose from. 

Rent a tree

Firstly, if you would miss the scent of a real tree, you can still have the real thing by renting a Christmas tree. An alternative to the real trees that are cut down for decoration, rented trees are 'borrowed' for the festive period and then replanted for use the following year. This is an eco alternative for those who want a real Christmas tree without discarding it at the end of the festive season. 

Grow your own Christmas tree 

Similarly, you can plant your own Christmas tree that lives outside in your garden for the majority of the year, and that can be brought inside for a couple of weeks around Christmas. This eco tree is a great choice if you want to be able to see the tree grow year after year, and improve the air quality in your neighbourhood. 

Buy a Sustainable wooden Christmas tree 

Luckily if you don’t have a garden, or you want a tree that you can reuse, you can buy a reusable wooden Christmas tree. They’re plastic free, and while there are no pines, they’re usually shaped like a traditional Christmas tree and can still be decorated beautifully. They’re a good option for a one-off purchase that can be reused for years to come and stored in your loft or under the bed.

There are lots of varieties out there but you need to make sure that whatever tree you choose is made from sustainably sourced wood. The wooden Christmas trees in our collection are made from timber from sustainably managed FSC certified forests.

What is the most eco-friendly Christmas tree?

The best eco-friendly Christmas tree depends on your circumstances, like whether you have a garden big enough for a Christmas tree, or have a rental place nearby, or whether you want a real tree or an artificial tree. Ultimately, the best option is always a natural tree, free from plastic and fertilisers, whether that's a sustainable wooden tree or a real tree that can replanted and reused every Christmas. 


Decorate your Eco-friendly Christmas Tree

Hopefully this guide has helped you pick the right sustainable Christmas tree option! All that’s left to do now is choose the decorations. Let us know what you’re doing to make your Christmas tree more sustainable in the comments below. 

Find this blog useful? Find more eco-friendly Christmas tips in our guides, including the Ultimate Guide to a Sustainable Christmas and Alternatives to Tinsel. 

We wish you luck on your journey to finding the perfect eco-friendly and sustainable Christmas tree.

Video Transcript - Accessibility

Hey, it's almost Christmas time you're trying to be more sustainable this year what are you going to go for a real tree or a fake tree?
That's the question that we're going to be answering today, and are there any other more sustainable options that you can choose when you're trying to decorate your home really Christmassy and get into that festive spirit.

Hi, I'm Charlie from Life Before Plastic. We are an online Eco shop where we talk all about Greener living at home, in your workplace, wherever you are in your life, and today we are talking about Christmas.

So this is the question a real tree a fake tree. There's pros and cons for both of them for a fake tree it's normally made from plastic and metal which can be hard to break apart at the end of its lifetime. However it is reusable, but you have to use it for 10 years in a row for it to have the same carbon footprint as when using a real tree that you've chopped down every year, so if it breaks you lose it in a house move or whatever, it actually can end up being less sustainable even though it is reusable.

On the other hand a real tree it smells really fresh, it smells like Christmas in your home, but unfortunately there aren't the easiest ways for it to break down at its end of life. If you throw it into your general waste and it ends up in landfill it can release a lot of methane and carbon dioxide when it's breaking down and that's before you even think about the growing process. Normally it's a monoculture where they're grown. They use pesticides and often it can be bad then for the soil and it degrading. So neither of these are the best option.

But luckily for you there are some alternatives.
There are three different main alternatives for a Christmas tree. The first that I've stumbled on recently is renting a tree. There are various farms around the UK and in some other countries but unfortunately not everywhere where you can rent a tree.
You get it from the farm it arrives probably a week before Christmas, you decorate it and then you give it back and it grows again the following year.
I think they use it for about three to five years and then it retires and it grows into a full tree. Obviously this is amazing if you want to have a real tree in your home but like I said it's not available everywhere so if you're closer to London and I think some places in Cheshire might do it but you have to sort of scout around to find one.

Another option is having your own tree at home a real life tree that you grow in the garden so you can get smaller ones at all sorts of different places and you can grow it in your garden, bring it in at Christmas time take it out again afterwards and then see it grow.
This is a great option if you are a keen Gardener or anything like that but obviously you need to have your own garden space, you need to look after it and you need to remember to adapt to the weather inside and then outside and it's a plant so you need to care for it.

Finally the other option is getting an Eco Christmas tree and there are various alternative Christmas trees. My personal favourites are the wooden Christmas trees so these ones are made using sustainable wood that's normally harvested in the UK. They are built by hand by local people and they are shaped into Christmas tree shapes that means that you can still decorate them like you would your other trees, they can be reused year after year so you only need one and you'll be using it forever and it's a natural product so it breaks down at the end of its life as well so you didn't need to worry about that either. If you are interested in a reusable wooden Christmas tree I will link those down below so you can find all the information about where they're made who's made them, what it's made for, how to put them up all of that stuff so you can have one of those in your home too.

So what is the most eco-friendly Christmas tree, should you go for a real or a fake one? I hope you can see there's quite a lot more choice than you might first have thought, you could rent a tree, buy your own tree, get an Eco wooden tree, there's all sorts of different options so make sure that you're not just going out to your local supermarket and buying a plastic one or going down to the Garden Centre or wherever it is and chopping down a tree. There are other more sustainable options out there and I'd love to hear what you do at home and how sustainable you are with your Christmas decorations so pop us a comment in the video below and let us know what you do at Christmas.

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