It’s a an issue that comes up annually in our house at this time of year: the Christmas Tree. Real or artificial?
The organic grower inside me always lays the guilt trip of ‘how could you take a thriving tree, hack off its root system, stick it in a holder for a few weeks and when the party’s over, disregard it without a sense of responsibility?’ It’s something I do think about, but right or wrong, I’ve always opted for the real thing. It’s not just about having this piece of natural beauty decorated and part of the home for those precious few weeks, but it’s also about the experience of actually getting the tree.Every year, it’s like a free ticket to behave like an eight year old again. The excitement of going to the garden centre, of telling Soph that this year’s tree will be the biggest yet. To which she rolls her eyes and reminds me our house is only so big.
We get there, chuckle at the sales assistants dressed in oversized festive costumes, take in the moment and then let the games commence. There’s the smell of pine, the tacky Christmas songs playing over the speakers and the rising excitement I always get when choosing my tree. ‘Start big’ I say to myself, ‘If I start big then there will be room to negotiate with Soph and we may still end up with a Titan at the end of it all!’. Meanwhile, and as reluctant as I am to admit it, Soph has pretty well decided on the tree. But to her credit, she always chooses the perfect one.
With the tree chosen, we gently coax it into the car, whisk it home and go about decorating it. I don’t know what traditions you have, but we always have to name our tree. Over the years we’ve had Boswell, Mabel and even Odin.
But although this beautiful tree can bring people together, there is a more serious note to consider: the environmental damage this tradition causes. Yes, there are specialist farms that know how to produce and plant these trees, and it creates business and jobs, but from an environmental point of view, should we do it?
What if we took the artificial route? This too comes with environmental concerns. The energy and chemicals that go into making a tree and getting these things shipped into the country all adds to the carbon footprint.
Just this weekend there was an interesting article in The Telegraph that addressed this question and explored the idea of buying potted trees, but these too have issues. If you’re going to do it, go for a pot-grown tree, not a ‘potted tree’. With the latter, it’s been forced into a tight space, shocking it and potentially damaging its root system.
For now, I hold my hand up to being a hypocrite as I continue to purchase my annual fir, but Soph and I have agreed that when we move to our next home which will hopefully have more land, we will buy only pot-grown trees and when their time is done, we’ll plant them in our garden. And over the years, the trees will grow, each with a name and each holding the memories we’ve built until we have our own little pine forest!
But for now, when grey January finally comes around, instead of getting rid of mine without a second thought, I’ll use the needles as a mulch for my blueberries and use the main timber for plant supports in the Spring.
Whatever type of tree you go for and whatever your conscience tells you, let’s just keep one thing in mind: Christmas is a season of goodwill for every man, woman and evergreen.