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Are real Christmas trees better for the planet? Sharanya Narasimhan, Wimbledon High School

Are real Christmas trees better for the planet? Sharanya Narasimhan, Wimbledon High School

Christmas trees are an integral part in the holiday tradition. Around 8 million Christmas trees are sold annually in the UK. As the climate crisis continues to grow, many people are questioning whether buying a real Christmas tree every year is more sustainable that buying an artificial tree that will last many years.

Artificial trees are often thought to be more eco-friendly than real trees. However, this is not always true. According to the Carbon Trust, artificial trees that are 6.5 feet tall emit about 40kg of greenhouse gases. The artificial tree must be reused for at least 10 years to offset the environmental impact of buying one. Lara Kerr, a Year 10 student, said that the artificial tree has been with her family since she was a child. The plastic it is made of accounts for about two-thirds (or more) of an artificial tree’s carbon footprint. Alternatives include trees that are pre-owned or made from recycled materials.

Real Christmas trees are not only more festive, but they can also be more environmentally friendly than artificial. However, it all depends on how you dispose off it. The economic and environmental impact of how you dispose a tree is significant. According to the Local Government Association calculations, each tree in a landfill will cost the local authority around 2.32 fee and tax. The methane released and carbon dioxide produced by tree disposal at landfill sites have a negative impact on the environment. Both greenhouse gases can be extremely harmful to the environment. According to the Carbon Trust, a two-metre tree can be recycled rather than disposed of in a landfill and reduce your carbon footprint by up to 80%. If used Christmas trees are turned into wood chippings and compost, it is best for the environment. The second most environmental-friendly factor when purchasing a real tree is its origin and journey to your home. The supply of domestically grown Christmas trees has increased in recent years, decreasing imports from countries like Denmark that produce large quantities of Christmas trees. Locally grown Christmas trees are not only better for reducing our carbon footprint but also support the local buisness community.

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Many local councils have Christmas tree collection programs. Merton Council is one example. Merton Council offers free Christmas tree collection. The trees are chipped in Morden Park, and the mulch is spread on the parks. This allows you to enjoy the tradition while minimizing the environmental impact of a real Christmas tree. Artificial trees can be reused for more than 10 year. Real Christmas trees can be made more environmentally friendly if they are properly recycled, and replanted at a similar rate to their original cuttings. A potted, living Christmas tree can be used year round without the need to be disposed of.

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