I’m planning to put my Christmas tree up today. We bought it a couple of weeks ago and it has been outside on the drive since then – I don’t like to go “full on Christmas” too early in December, before we break up for the holidays.
I’m not a person who has colour themes: our tree is always an eclectic mix of decorations and ornaments that we have bought from various places we have visited – including a figurine of a member of the San Marino National Guard, sold to us by his mother in the permanent Christmas shop in San Marino Old Town, which was a very surreal experience in the middle of August – but that’s a whole other story!
This post, however, is more about the tree itself and less about what we put onto it.
Some people swear by artificial trees – they can pack them away every January, put them in the loft and then pull them down the following Christmas and put them up again. Other people are firmly in the “real is best” camp. When it comes to real trees, the first decision that needs to be made is type: Nordmann Fir or Norway Spruce?
The Norway Spruce, as its name suggests, originally came to the UK from Scandinavia in the 16th century, which is about 300 years before Queen Charlotte introduced the tradition of Christmas trees, from her native Germany, in 1800, (however, it is often thought that it had been Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria who had done this 40 yers later). Often considered to be the ‘original’ Christmas tree, they can grow to more than 40m and live for over 1000 years.
The Norman Fir, on the other hand, is known as the ‘non-drop’ tree as it has an ability to hold its needles better throughout the festive season. It is also a popular choice amongst allergy sufferers as it has the added advantage of a waxy coating over the needles. This species originated in the forests of Turkey and Georgia.
But surely it can’t be good for the environment, having a real tree? After all, a real tree has spent at least 4 years growing, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and producing oxygen. If your real tree ends up going to landfill after Christmas, it will decompose and produce methane, which is also a greenhouse gas. According to The Carbon Trust, replanting you tree, (if it has a root ball) or chipping it for the garden significantly reduces the carbon dioxide release, however if this is not possible, the suggest burning the tree. This is a net zero method of disposal as it releases back to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that was taken up during growth. The carbon footprint of the average real tree is around 4kg.
A 2m artificial Christmas tree has a carbon footprint of approximately 40kg, which is bolstered by the fact that the majority are manufactured in China and have to be imported. This means that artificial trees need to be used at least 10 times to bring their environmental impact per use down to that of a real tree.
But whether you are Team Real or Team Fake, putting the Christmas Tree up is an activity that most families have built their own traditions around, and I’m going to enjoy a big mug of hot chocolate whilst I am doing mine!
Until next time, keep calm and apply some Science!