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Day 1: Christmas Trees: To Go Real or Go Fake?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

At CAFA we've been debating the increasing ‘real vs fake’ sustainable Christmas tree argument. The answer is a complicated one, so we've done a bit of research to help our community make the right choice.....

We've found that experts largely agree that real Christmas Trees have the edge.

According to an article by the Soil Association, most artificial trees are made in China, with the dual environmental impact of being made from plastic, PVC, and metal as well as the international export shooting up their carbon footprint.


Artificial Christmas trees also aren’t recyclable or decomposable. So, when they’re inevitably thrown away, they end up in a landfill, going nowhere fast.


According to a 2018 study from WAP Sustainability commissioned by the AMERICAN CHRISTMAS TREE ASSOCIATION, the environmental impact of an artificial tree is better than a real tree only if you use the fake tree for more than five years. However, it’s estimated that on average fake trees are used only 4 times regardless of improving quality.


On the other hand, it takes an average of 7 years to fully grow a Christmas tree, according to the National Christmas Tree Assn. While it grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and provides a habitat for animals if not grown intensively.


Trees also pile up on the curbs after the holidays are over, like a graveyard of Christmas past. The final destination in many locations is landfills, where they contribute to emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas roughly 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. If trees are cut down or burned, they can release the carbon they’ve been storing back into the atmosphere. But Doug Hundley, spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, which advocates for real trees, said to CNN that "cutting down Christmas trees from a farm is balanced out when farmers immediately plant more seedlings to replace them."


So, what can you do this Christmas?


·For real trees, check to see if they are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) UK, ensuring minimal fertilizer is used. This ensures it is not intensively grown.

·Source organically and locally

·Ensure you are disposing of your tree in the least carbon-intensive way possible- Feel free to drop us a message if you’re not sure or would just like to have a chat about it!

·Get creative – DIY your tree without a tree at all; you could also rent or use second-hand trees

·Use sustainable or reusable decorations – thrift, or reuse materials from home/office as a fun activity too!

·For artificial trees, ensure that you reuse your trees for multiple years for them to be truly sustainable and impactful


We’d love to hear what you are doing (at home or at work) to ensure your trees are sustainable!


Send us pictures of your creative Christmas tree ideas (mehak@cafacollective.org)and we will re share on our social media!




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