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An artificial or actual Christmas tree: which option is more sustainable?

O tannenbaum, no tannenbaum?

What is the most sustainable option?

Trees. All good things come in threes, the apples don't fall far from them, we plant them on Madagascar and we decorate them for Christmas. Since recently, we’ve been asking ourselves: “Which option is more sustainable, a real Christmas tree or a fake Christmas tree?” 

The December Dilemma

The December Dilemma: should you get an actual tree or an artificial tree? We can already tell you that there isn’t a clear cut winner in terms of sustainability. If you can’t decide between a live tree or a faux one this year, read further to learn more and help weigh your options.

Pros and cons

We’ve listed the pros and cons for you:

Naald of kunstboom

We can already conclude the following: the environmental impact of artificial trees versus real trees is so different that it is impossible to identify the most environmentally friendly tree - according to Milieu Centraal. Spokesperson Heleen Slob explains: "An artificial tree produces more CO2 than a real tree, however if you use it for five to ten years, the emissions are the same as if you buy a real tree every year." (RTL news, 2019)

There are various factors that determine how much impact an (artificial) Christmas tree has on the environment, and they are difficult to weigh up against each other. However, there are a few other factors you can take into account when deciding to opt for a real or a fake Christmas tree. The most important thing is that you make a conscious decision and effort to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Kunstofnaaldboom

Let's break it down

What do you need to take into consideration?

The degree of durability of your Christmas tree depends, among other things, on:

1. Lighting

What is a tree without decorative lighting, am I right? Always go for LED Christmas lights. Do you have a broken light? Fix it and don't throw away the entire lighting cord. The packaging often contains an extra light so that you can repair your light cord. Invest in a good set of bulbs instead of a cheap cord that will break after just one year. If the light cord cannot be repaired, you can hand it in at a collection point. Did you know that in the Netherlands we throw away 87.0000 kilometers of Christmas lights every year!? (Sustainable Home). Still a long way to go to #zerowaste! 

2. Decoration

Go for Christmas hangers made of natural materials such as wood, glass, cotton or jute instead of plastic decoration. It is also better not to bring fake snow into your home, because of all the small plastic chips that end up everywhere. Ready for new decoration for your tree? Swap decorations with someone else, or take your old ones to the thrift store and pick out something new.

3. Distance

Finally, the travelling distance. Get your Christmas tree nearby, so you don't have to drive for miles.

4 tips for a real Christmas tree

Green, greener, greenest

1. Certification

Opt for a tree that has been grown without fertilizers and pesticides. You can identify this by looking at its certification, such as a Planet Proof tree or an organic quality mark.

2. Support sustainable initiatives 

Support a sustainable initiative such as Adopt a tree, Scharrelboom, Rent a Christmas tree or Sustainable trees.

  • Adopt a tree | You pay an adoption price and a 10 euro deposit for a tree, including a flyer with care tips. Thanks to the metal token with a unique tree number, the tree is linked to your name. Adopt your tree here.
  • Scharrelboom | Help De Hoge Veluwe National Park! Come and saw your own tree to keep the nature reserve in balance. You can take the tree with you for free. Check here for dates and times.
  • Rent a Christmas tree | You pay € 28 plus a € 5 deposit. After three weeks, the tree goes back into the ground at the supplier. Rent your tree here!
  • Sustainable trees | With Sustainable Christmas trees you pay a € 10.00 deposit per tree. You choose your issue point and date, and after the holidays you return your Sustainable Christmas Tree here. Find your sustainable tree here.

3. Maintenance 

You water a real tree daily, so it stays beautiful for longer. Does your Christmas tree not have a root ball? Make sure the trunk is in the water. To reduce the fire risk: spray the branches with a plant sprayer and do not place a real conifer near a fireplace. Also check that your Christmas lights are not getting too hot.

4. Returning your Christmas tree 

Before you know it, it's January. It is tempting to throw your rootless Christmas tree into the fire pit, but it is better to hand it in to the municipality. They ensure that the tree is processed in an environmentally friendly way with as little air pollution as possible. Does your tree have a root ball? Then you can put it back on the ground. See you next year.

I'm dreaming of a green christmas.
Green christmas

3 tips for an artificial tree

Merry Christmas

1. Second-hand

Get your artificial tree second hand at the thrift store or via Marktplaats. Tip: many people throw away their Christmas items after Christmas. So go to Marktplaats at the beginning of January to do your Christmas shopping for next year, instead of buying something new now!

2. Go for quality

Choose a good quality artificial tree so that it stays beautiful for a long time. View the top 10 best artificial Christmas trees here.

3. Be careful

Handle with care, do not break off snags or lose parts. This way your tree will last as long as possible!

A sustainable Christmas

Real or fake: you may still make the most environmental impact with what you put under that tree. Opt for a sustainable gift that really benefits the recipient. Which Bambook do you give?

Real or fake:

What are you putting under the tree?
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