I find there are so many considerations over the festive season besides just surviving the hectic period. My sense of community is at its greatest at this time of year, as I take stock of just how fortunate we are to have a roof over our head and a family to share this special time with. It also highlights some of the challenges I face as a consumer trying to be environmentally minded.

In our rush to complete our Christmas shopping (well at least mine anyway!) it can be easy to overlook considerations such as where the gifts we are buying are sourced from and how they are manufactured. Furthermore, simple details such as where the gift wrapping is derived from or what can be reused or re-purposed as gift wrapping are also considerations.  I also find myself questioning whether my choices of gifts are useful, needed and made to last. There are so many aspects of Christmas and the resulting environmental impacts I could discuss but today I’m going to focus on Christmas trees.

As each Christmas passes, I increasingly wrestle with the long held family tradition of buying a real Christmas tree vs. my environmental conscience. For the last four years over the Christmas period I have either had a newborn baby or we have been doing some sort of home renovation.  We haven’t planned it this way; it’s just how things have worked out.  Needless to say it always seems to be beyond hectic at this time of year and I could use that as an excuse for my decision to take the traditional option of purchasing real Christmas trees, but if I’m honest I do struggle to part with a beautiful smelling fresh Christmas tree.

Knowing that I wrestle with this decision my husband has tried to talk me into a plastic tree a couple of times. However, I’m not a big fan of all things plastic and I have my doubts (albeit subjective) of the environmental credentials of a plastic tree. So I decided to put this to the test and do some reading on the subject to determine which is the more sustainable option – real or plastic.

Plastic trees are usually made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). During its production, carbon dioxide is produced; a greenhouse gas. Furthermore, additives used in production also produce hazardous waste. Plastic trees travel much further to reach your home, primarily being manufactured in China, which means more fossil fuels are burnt to get them to your door. I wonder how long people keep their plastic Christmas trees for, ten years? A lifetime? Irrespective of their lifespan, they will eventually end up in landfill. PVC persists in the environment, as it does not readily degrade, unlike real trees which biodegrade.  Furthermore, many of the toxic chemicals used in PVC can leach and contaminate surrounding soil and water supplies.

The majority of Christmas trees come from either small plantations dedicated to growing Christmas trees or are rejects from large pine plantations. They are grown without significant irrigation and assist with carbon dioxide reduction. Some of the negatives associated with harvesting Christmas trees include the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, which can impact on the local environment.  Plantations are also inhospitable to native animals as they have replaced native vegetation, creating adverse impacts as young plantation trees do not allow for nesting.

Now I know you may be thinking by now, why doesn’t she just grow one?  Believe me I have tried unsuccessfully! I am hoping to develop some gardening focus/skills in the future and adopt this method with more success.

When I mentioned to Sally I was going to write about my Christmas tree dilemma in my upcoming blog she quickly made me realise that I have been so consumed with real vs. plastic that I hadn’t even noticed that we are now blessed with more and more conscientious options.  She sent me a photo of her recent tree purchase.  A tree made by a local business in Rosebud, Victoria, All for You, made from reclaimed timber.

Christmas tree

This made me wonder what else is now available out there to buy. I would love to hear about any great finds or ideas you have come across – just in case I don’t succeed in keeping a real potted tree alive and kicking for next Christmas!