How to have a carbon-neutral Xmas tree (even if you get allergies)

Ryan Boyd
How to have a carbon-neutral Xmas tree (even if you get allergies)

You may think the idea of cutting down a live tree just for a few weeks of festivity is not great for the environment, but it can actually be carbon neutral if you do it right.

But before we get to that, what are the actual carbon footprints of a fake and real tree?


Fake vs real: which is better for the environment?

Pretty simply, a real tree is far better for the environment than a plastic one.

The Carbon Trust, an independent advisory that works with organisations to address environmental challenges, says, “a 2 metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint around 40kg CO2e, more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill, and more than ten times that of real trees that are burnt.

“So if you have an artificial tree at home you would need to re-use it for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.”

Also, a real tree is more likely to be locally produced and thus have lower associated travel emissions.


It all comes down to how you dispose it

As The Carbon Trust mentioned above, how a Christmas tree is disposed of can affect the C02 emitted.

“For a 2 metre tall real Christmas tree, with no roots, the carbon footprint is 16kg CO2e if it ends up in landfill.

“This is because the tree decomposes and produces methane gas, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“However if you burn your Christmas tree on the bonfire, plant it, or have it chipped to spread on the garden, that significantly reduces the carbon footprint by up to 80% (around 3.5kg CO2e).

“Burning the tree emits the carbon dioxide that it stored up when it was growing so there's no net increase.”

If you don’t have access to any of these options, there are many tree sellers that will remove your tree for you.

So if you want a green Christmas this year, a properly disposed of real tree is definitely the way to go.


But I get hayfever!

Unfortunately, the reality for many Kiwis is a real tree isn’t practical due to allergies., and the default alternative is to go for a plastic tree.

But if you want to be a bit greener there are a few options that you can look into that will keep the festive spirit without making such a high carbon footprint.


Potted totara trees

A potted totara tree will last a few Christmases indoors, as long as you prune it, and once you’re ready to move on, you can replant it outdoors.


Outdoor trees

If you have a tree on your property, consider decorating that one instead.


Adopt a tree

Rather than sending a plastic tree to the landfill, consider “adopting” a second hand tree. There are plenty of listings on Trademe.


Build your own “tree”

Want something a bit more creative? You can make a “tree” out of anything you can find, like a ladder, driftwood, or photographs on a wall. Here’s some inspiration via Pinterest.