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christmas tree

12 days of plastic free Christmas: day 4

The festive period brings with it a huge rise in the amount of single-use plastics. Everything from decorations, to wrapping and even some of the food on your Christmas table.

Here at the University of Hull we are asking everyone to take a pledge about reducing their plastic waste at Christmas by providing simple, easy and affordable ways to help minimise plastic waste in the home. Our 12 Days of Plastic-Free Christmas will run from December 1-12 and include, fun and easy to do swaps this Christmas.

Christmas trees

It really isn’t Christmas without a tree: there’s something so evocative about the smell of pine-needles slowly dropping all over the carpet, isn’t there?

In the UK, we ‘consume’ between 6 and 8 million real Christmas trees annually, with sales outstripping sales of artificial tree. However, as artificial trees are reused there are far more artificial trees decorated each year than real ones. Although some sources have suggested that artificial trees are more environmentally friendly than real ones, you’d have to use an artificial tree for over 10 years to reduce the carbon footprint below that of using real trees, and as artificial trees are made of a non-recyclable form of plastic it poses a problem when you need to replace it.

However, just buying any old natural tree isn’t that simple.  The Woodland Trust suggest that if you buy a cut tree this Christmas you should try and do so from an FSC-certified source, and as close to home as possible:

“You can also ask how the tree farm is tended. Using big machinery isn’t good, as it erodes the soil and can make nearby streams fill up with sediment. It’s better for the environment if trees are planted and harvested (or felled) by hand.”

There are better options than buying a cut tree though, with some garden centres or Christmas tree farms giving you the option of renting a rooted, potted tree for the festivities, or you can purchase a potted tree which you can plant out and re-pot every year.  Potted trees are a more expensive option but with care they should last for many years and starting small seemed like the best choice.  

Caring for your potted tree –

  1. Place it in an outside building (shed, garage, etc) for a few days before bringing it in doors
  2. Keep it as far away from a heat source as possible
  3. You can keep it in the pot all year or plant it after Christmas and repot before bringing it in
  4. When outside keep it sheltered from wind and away from blazing summer sun – try a sheltered shady corner
  5. A bucket of water a week during the summer is the only care it needs

It doesn’t have to be the giant, family-sized tree of childhood imaginations but it’s a great choice and gives all the delicious scent and atmosphere of a larger, less sustainable tree for a lot less hassle and with a much, much smaller environmental footprint.


Author: Kate Smith

With thanks to the Meek family for today’s video content.

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