Get real this Christmas

Family day out: Visiting a Christmas tree farm and selecting your own tree can be made into a fun day out with the kids. Photo: Fairfax.
Family day out: Visiting a Christmas tree farm and selecting your own tree can be made into a fun day out with the kids. Photo: Fairfax.

If you’re aiming to do your bit for the environment this Christmas, the type of Christmas tree you choose will make a difference.

Real benefits: Artificial trees are usually made of plastic, steel and/or lead, consume energy and resources in production and shipping, and end up in landfill.

Real benefits: Artificial trees are usually made of plastic, steel and/or lead, consume energy and resources in production and shipping, and end up in landfill.

According to Planet Ark, the greenest option is to make your own arrangement with branches or grab a potted Australian native pine like a Wollemi or Cypress that can be used year after year.

Family day out: Visiting a Christmas tree farm and selecting your own tree can be made into a fun day out with the kids.

Family day out: Visiting a Christmas tree farm and selecting your own tree can be made into a fun day out with the kids.

The organisation said that if your intention was to buy and reuse a fake plastic tree, it’s always better to buy a plant over non-biodegradable plastic. 

“A plant is a renewable resource, 100-percent biodegradable and easily recycled.

“Plastic Christmas trees in general are made of non-recyclable, non-degradable plastics and metals which won't decompose, meaning they will all eventually end up in landfill,” it said. 

Fake trees may also be manufactured with lead and other toxic additives, although polyethylene plastic (or PE) trees are said to be a less toxic option.

If you are committed to the fake tree option, ensure that you buy one that is made in Australia. They probably won’t be in your local department store, but they do exist (for example Balsam Hill).

While there is an argument that a plastic tree can be resued for up to a decade, or maybe more, some studies have shown it would have to be used for at least 20 years to make it a more eco-friendly choice.

Cutting down trees can feel wrong, but these trees are grown as a crop specifically for that purpose, and they provide habitat for wildlife during the 10 years or so they take to grow.

You can also feel good about supporting a local business (not driving too far to get your tree will also add to your green credentials).

A real Christmas tree will also add a lovely pine scent to your house, and you won’t have to worry about finding somewhere to store it in the new year.

Cost wise, if you buy a premium artificial tree which starts at about $300 and can go over $1000, it will take at least five years to start making savings compared to buying a real one each year, which will cost about $60.

Disposing of a real tree is simple if you have a mulcher at home, otherwise, some councils organise curb-side pick up of Christmas trees in the new year.

Ask your cut tree supplier if they will take back the used tree for mulching, or you could chop it up yourself and use the trunk to make craft items such as pine drink coasters.

Planet Ark suggested another living tree idea which is fairly low maintenance: a Rosemary tree.

A healthy potted rosemary plant will survive for years and requires very little care. 

Not only do they smell great but you can pluck a few sprigs right off it and throw it into your oven as you prepare your festive dinner. 

This story Get real this Christmas first appeared on Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser.