Christmas Tree Dilemmas

Norway Spruce

At the Manchester Museum we’ve recently been getting to grips with trying to live the eco-dream by sourcing a sustainable and ethical Christmas tree. Simple you might think, instead of chopping a tree down just get artificial. Well no because that uses resources to make in the first place, is not very recyclable and, according to Greenpeace statistics, on average only lasts for 5 years. So what about recycled trees made out of card or metal? Well the same issues raise there heads and in fact both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth advise a real tree from a plantation as being a better option so long as it is recycled afterwards.

However this still impacts on biodiversity and wildlife so is no tree at all a better choice?  Probably, but then you risk being labelled “Scrooge” and ruining the magic of Christmas and your children may never forgive you!
So what is the answer? Well this is where it gets tricky. Most Christmas trees grown in Britain are grown on plantations as a cash crop. For every tree harvested, which happens on their 7th year, two are replanted. They absorb CO2 so that’s good, and they provide a habitat for wildlife. However there remains the question of biodiversity and the very issue that a tree must be killed. Greenpeace believes this is still acceptable, re-planting being the trade off, so long as the supplier is a member of the British Xmas Tree Growers Association to ensure it is from a sustainable plantation.

So, spurred on, we decided to look further and next came to the National Trust. They sell Christmas trees that have been cut as part of their normal woodland management scheme which they will sell and then, after Christmas, will take back and mulch for use on pathways. This, though expensive to buy, is from a truly sustainable source as these are cut in woodland management schemes that are necessary to maintain biodiversity on Trust properties.  This looked the best option until we found a third way. That is live Christmas trees. Here the tree is not cut but potted with living roots and then re-planted after Xmas and kept potted as a patio plant until needed the following year. This looks ideal as an eco option; the only question was where to keep it after Christmas? After further research on live trees we found a company called “The Christmas Tree Man” who Friends of the Earth bloggers highly recommended. His company rents you living fir trees and then collects them keeps them for you after Christmas on his plantation and returns it the following year to use again. That is unless it’s being used as a nest site when he will provide an alternative.

This is the option we have finally chosen to trial this year. I’ve chosen an 8’ Norway Spruce which should be with us on the 1st Dec.

The web site is fascinating, take a look here.  It will make a good discussion point with visitors if we label it and the sustainability issues around Christmas Trees and the lengths we’ve gone to try to get the best option for the environment.

Michael Whitworth, Head of Commercial Operations, Manchester Museum

One thought on “Christmas Tree Dilemmas

  1. I have heard of people just planting a xmas tree in a planter then they can put it back in the garden year after year….this way no trees have to die!

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