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Eco christmas trees

Hazel Silver

6th December, 2012

How can you be a good green and still enjoy a spectacular Christmas tree? Hazel Sillver explores the eco options

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a tree. But which sort is the most eco-friendly?


The majority of fake Christmas trees are imported from China, and made of non-bio-degradable plastics. If you want to be eco-friendly, it’s best to:

Re-use your fake tree 

Although a PVC pink tree is definitely not helpful to the environment, it does pass as marginally eco-sound if you use it year after year after year. 

Buy a recycled fake tree

Choose a tree made from recycled materials. The Natural Store sell graphic, white trees made from recycled cardboard (H70cm, £12.40, ) and the Design Museum sell beautiful spiral Christmas trees designed by Giles Miller and made with recycled cardboard (H80cm, £30, ). 


8 million Christmas trees are felled each year in the UK, the majority of which are discarded onto the tip a few weeks later. Since 95% of Christmas trees are grown in the UK on farms that provide habitat for wildlife, a freshly cut spruce is greener than an imported fake tree, but it isn’t ideal. To be as eco-friendly as possible:

Buy a freshly cut organic tree

If you must buy a cut tree, opt for one that has been organically grown. Organic Christmas tree farms provide a rich habitat for wildlife. 

Compost your spent tree

Ensure your cut tree does some good to the environment by giving it to the council – they will shred it and use it for compost or wood chip mulch. See your local council website for a list of sites to drop off your tree. 


Buying an entire tree with its rootball intact is by far the most eco-friendly option, if the tree is planted afterwards. Every acre of Christmas spruce absorbs six tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, so the prospect of forests of Christmas trees being planted in January is environmentally exciting. The problem, of course, is that most of us don’t have room to plant a tree in the garden every year! Happily, there are several ways around this... 

Rent a tree

Use a Christmas tree hire service, such as Forever Green Christmas Trees in South Essex (, Gill’s Home & Garden in East Sussex ( and Trees for Rent in Dorset ( Tree hire companies usually grow their spruce in special pots that are sunk into the ground and allow small roots to grow, for eleven months of the year. In December they are lifted and hired out for a month; then in January the pot is sunk back into the ground. Each tree goes through this renting cycle for a few years and then, when it gets too big, it will be permanently planted in the ground. 

Donate your tree

If you buy an intact tree, donate it after Christmas. Contact land authorities, such as your local Forestry Commission office, local National Trust office or council parks department, to ask if they would like it. Look after the tree well, so that it is fit for planting. 

Look after your tree

Position well away from radiators and open fires to prevent it drying out. Water regularly to keep it moist (but don’t let it sit in a tray of water). 

Buy a dwarf conifer to use each year

Purchase a small, slow-growing tree that you can leave in a pot in the garden for 50 weeks of the year and bring indoors for Christmas. Be careful what you buy - many Christmas tree species get very big, very quickly. The ubiquitous Norway spruce, for instance, will reach 50m eventually. Instead, go for one of these: 

*Abies concolor ‘Compacta’ (stockist:  or or ‘Archer’s Dwarf’ (stockist: Reach 1-1.5m in 10 years. 

*Abies pinsapo ‘Glauca’ (stockist: ). Reaches 3m in 10 years. 

*Picea pungens glauca ‘Koster’, ‘Fat Albert’ or ‘Edith’, (stockist: Reach 2m in 10 years. 

*Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’ (stockist: ). Reaches 2m in 10 years. 

*Abies koreana (stockist: or ‘Silberlocke’ (stockist: ). Reach 2-4m in 10 years. 

To find further stockists, use the RHS Plantfinder ( 

All of the above can be grown in a pot outside for several years. Once the tree outgrows its pot and becomes too heavy to carry inside, you could plant it in a bigger outdoor container or in the ground, or donate it. 

Have an outdoor Christmas tree

Plant a permanent spruce in the garden. Decorate it with lights and seedheads (such as allium) sprayed with waterproof paint. 

*Image courtesy of



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