Ever wondered where your Christmas tree is from and where it ends up? You’re about to find out! Settle down for a cosy Christmas tale…
In times gone by, Christmas trees would be felled by a logsman specifically for a wealthy family. Although not an overly harmful practice, it wasn’t particularly sustainable and as demand for real Christmas trees grew, the need for specialised real Christmas tree agriculture became apparent.
Fast forward a hundred years or so, and the agricultural practice is fine-tuned and unlike some farming practices, it is helpful to the environment. To start this article we’re going to be retelling the life cycle of a fake Christmas tree, a rather more somber note.
As with all Christmas tales, make sure you read to the bottom for the happy ending!
Life cycle of a fake Christmas tree
Every year in the UK 6 million people buy a real Christmas tree, but there is a sad and growing trend of fewer people opting for real Christmas trees and choosing instead to use artificial ones. Currently, two thirds of British households have a fake Christmas tree.
Fake Christmas trees are made from a combination of materials, but the main component is the dreaded, environment-destroying plastic. Some fake Christmas trees are made from “recycled” plastics from China while many of them sneakily avoid recycled plastic claims altogether.
Recycled plastic is a good thing, right?
The truth is, recycling plastic is not really that environmentally friendly (if at all). Plastic you send to be recycled by your local council is sold to companies who recycle it. Some of the plastic is recycled in the UK but almost three quarters is sent overseas.
The amount that ends up in landfill and the amount that is actually recycled is lost, but the stuff that is recycled normally makes its way to China (using lots of dirty fuel to be transported there on huge boats). This is then processed by melting the plastic, and then repurposed which is a time-consuming task and requires more energy (lots of fossil fuels being burnt).
The end result is that Chinese manufacturers get access to masses of low-cost plastic that they can make into toys, accessories, tech and you, guessed it, Christmas trees.
Fake Christmas trees
Once you have bought your fake Christmas tree, you will probably get 5 to 10 years use out of it depending on how careful you are setting it up, dismantling it and storing it. It’s no surprise really that cheap materials break easily.
So, you put your tree out for the council to collect and maybe even hope it will be recycled. But it’s a lost cause - fake Christmas trees are made up of multiple types of recycled plastic which makes it difficult to separate and extract each one for recycling. While the Chinese might have got plastic recycling down pretty well, they haven’t enhanced their initial Christmas tree manufacturing processes, so they simply use whatever is cheapest… even if that means cross-mixing plastic, making the tree impossible to recycle.
That means after 5-10 years, your Christmas tree ends up on landfill, spreading Christmas cheer to rotting garbage and causing 500 year’s worth of environmental damage. And, after all that, you probably didn’t even save that much money by choosing fake instead of real!
Real Christmas trees
Real Christmas trees on the other hand are purpose grown for Christmas, with entire farms dedicated to growing your beloved Christmas tree. They start off (normally in Denmark) as a seed which is planted snuggly in seed row. Unlike traditional methods that rely on scatter seed techniques, Christmas trees are either planted into pots or planted carefully in rows. As the tree grows, it will need a generous amount of space to grow out into the Christmas tree shape that we all know and love.
There are many types of Christmas tree but mostly they are from the evergreen pine family. Each variant has its own unique set of growing conditions and each has a different look (our all-time favourite is the Nordmann Fir). Make sure you read up about the Christmas tree you’re buying as you will want to make sure you care for it properly while it is blessing your home with Christmas cheer!
Christmas trees growing
After a Christmas tree is planted, it is up to the Christmas tree farmer to ensure that it grows as healthily as possible. It takes a lot of love and care to grow a Christmas tree - it needs to look perfect from every angle.
Each year it is growing a little more difficult to cultivate and grow Christmas trees because of the warmer weather that we’ve been experiencing. Christmas tree farmers are working in challenging conditions to make sure they meet demand.
Why not help our farmers out by picking up a pot grown Christmas tree? Have a go at nurturing your tree all year round and keeping it from one Christmas to the next. Naming it isn’t essential but it is highly recommended!
Did you know, in Europe, trees that have less branches are popular, especially in cultures that light candles on their trees for decoration. In the US, trees with lots of branches are popular as this provides more surface area to decorate.
Christmas tree markets
When every tree is looking ship-shape and ready for a new home, they’re cut or potted and ready for selling.
It is increasingly common for people to purchase their tree online. This has a number of awesome benefits;
- It’s the most cost-effective way of purchasing a Christmas tree.
- It ensures that you can find smaller Christmas tree farms that you might not have known existed.
- You have much more variety to pick from.
- The quality of Christmas tree will be better because retailers can cherry pick the best trees to sell to you.
Real Christmas trees at home and after Christmas
Some people opt to retain their pot-grown Christmas trees - evergreen trees do well in the British climate with minimal effort needed. Others opt to dispose of the tree each year – which is absolutely fine as even green waste is composted and helps support British agriculture.
Over the Christmas period, you may need to trim the odd offshoot (after all, it is a living tree) and pick up needles that have dropped. Needle picking isn’t as arduous as it sounds and most modern vacuum cleaners make light work of it. For those less inclined to clean up after the tree, there are special varieties grown that are known for their low needle drop rate!
So, what are you waiting for? Get a real tree and join the Christmas circle of life!