The Holiday season is upon us and as it's nearing December it's also nearing the time most people start putting their decorations up. With the tree  being centre piece of most people's holiday celebrations  you may be wondering what the most sustainable option is. What is the most sustainable way to have a Christmas tree?. Well I will hopefully help you answer that today.

Is a plastic tree ok?
There's a war on plastic currently, and it's easy to say that plastic = bad, but the thing about plastic items that are more permanent (especially vs conventional real trees) is that they're long lasting and you can use them year after year. My family have always had a plastic tree, we had a big plastic one for over 15 years, and I'm pretty sure we donated it after so other families could enjoy it too!

Elipsos conducted study in 2009 on plastic vs non plastic trees, taking into account the extraction and processing of raw materials, the manufacturing processes, transport and distribution, use, reuse and recycling and disposal at end of life. This was of plastic trees from china vs natural trees grown in Montreal (locally). Their findings were that someone using an artificial tree would have to use it for more than 20 years for it to be more environmentally friendly than a real one over those 20 years. However this number will vary a little depending on where in the world you are!

So my advice to getting a plastic is to try and get one second hand if you can, whether that's a swap site like gumtree, or if friends don't need one anymore. And buy one knowing that you will be using it year after year! Making sure that you are aiming for that 20 year lifespan if you can.

If you already own a plastic tree, you don't need to swap it. Remember that the most sustainable option is always the thing you already own.

Real Trees
I know a lot of people who swear by real trees, I've never had one so have never really understood the hype but there's definitely something magical about the smell!

Millions of virgin trees every year are cut to sit in people's homes, but they are biodegradable and recyclable, and can be grown as a crop on low grade land. So while cutting down a young tree just to keep it in your house for a month of the year definitely isn't the most eco friendly thing to do, it's kind of like any other crop. It takes 7 years to grow a two meter tree, but the whole time that tree acts like a carbon sink, soaking up carbon dioxide from the environment.

The best way to do it if you really want a real tree like this is to make sure you're getting it from a local, and sustainably conscious farm. Getting one locally means a lower carbon footprint for transport and means you have the magic of picking your own. And opting for farms that use materials other than plastic to wrap their trees, and are from sustainable and organic forests that are well looked after ensures that you're supporting sustainable practices.

If you do get a real tree then at the end of the holidays there are plenty of ways to upcyle parts of that tree before it gets collected. From saving a branch to hang next year's stocking's, to saving lots of branches to make a minimalistic tree for next year. So before you put your tree in front of your house in January to be collected think: can I make anything for next year?
Rent A Tree
A fair few companies these days are offering potted trees, so that you have a real living tree in a pot over the Christmas period, and once that's over they are collected to be planted and continue growing. This means that a lot of the environmental impact associated with disposal of these Christmas trees is negated, I mean 7 million are put into landfill every year, so you can avoid this by getting a living one!

You have to remember to keep it watered and, well, alive but it is a very eco concious way of having a real tree in your home over the holidays! I feel like if you love house plants then this is also the kind of tree for you.

Companies like London Christmas Tree Rental (London, sadly sold out for 2019), Love a Christmas Tree(Leicestershire Uk), Chippenham Pit Stop (Wiltshire UK), Primrose Vale (Gloucestershire, UK),  Rent Xmas Tree (California US) and more do live tree rentals! It's worth checking locally to see if you can find one close for the most eco option.
Make your Own
If you're super crafty then you can opt to make your own Christmas tree, the one in the above image is  my family's driftwood tree made a couple of years ago (we also have a small plastic tree). On boxing day we went on a family walk to the beach and ended up collecting lots of driftwood, which my mum used to make a Christmas tree out of! As I said above you can also do this sort of thing with cut offs from a natural tree, or scrap wood.

This is probably the best way to have a reusable tree which isn't made of plastic! It's made from waste /natural materials, is recyclable once it reaches the end of it's life cycle and it's super pretty if you want a more minimal look this Christmas.

If you're not super crafty/ don't have the time to make your own then there are plenty of sustainable trees you can buy: (Affiliate links)
I go by the same principles when it comes to other decorations as I do for trees! Get stuff you will reuse year after year, or forage to make things like wreaths out of natural materials. There are lots of different ways to do this.

This year we haven't bought anything new in terms of Christmas decorations because we don't need to! And that's the aim. If you are new to decorating (if you've just moved house etc.) then try charity shops/second hand first, a lot of them have decorations in at the moment! Also see if your friends have decorations they don't need\want any more, or give making your own a little go! It will also save you a lot of money at the same time.

Also if you find stuff you're not going to use for Christmas donate it now! Don't wait until after Christmas to donate it all because now is the time that charity shops will sell it and it's a lot less likely to end up in landfill.

What the most sustainable tree will be for you, really depends on your situation and how you want to do Christmas. But hopefully this guide has made you think about some questions to ask yourself before you buy a tree, and given you an idea of how to make that decision a bit more sustainable!

If you want to know more about having a more sustainable Christmas: