Despite radical restrictions disrupting recent seasonal festivities,  our enthusiasm for the traditional Christmas tree has not diminished. UK Sales of the festive fir usually average 8 million each year but by early December 2020 growers were predicting sales of up to 10 million.

Trees are grown from saplings for up to 10 years before getting the chop in preparation for their brief moment of glittering glory in our living rooms. Twelfth night heralds the undressing of the trees and the unceremonious trip to the dump or recycling centre. In Hastings the final destination for many Christmas trees is Harmer’s Walk at the top end of Alexandra Park. This year it does indeed seem as though there are more trees than ever before. A remarkable variety of species has been on display. Some remain swaddled in sales packaging having never fulfilled their intended destiny. One or two still have a lone bauble attached.

The mass Christmas tree graveyard is a rather sad sight. It seems somewhat wasteful to cut down trees in order to decorate our homes for just a few short weeks. An estimated 50% of UK families opt for artificial trees thus avoiding both disposal issues and the inevitable residue of pine needles in cars and living rooms. In terms of sustainability, a good quality artificial tree may last for years but most are made of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable materials and end up languishing for hundreds of years in landfills. 

Putting a conifer in a small pot is a bit like putting a cod in a goldfish bowl

In contrast, living trees contribute oxygen to the environment whilst growing and when Christmas is over they can be recycled. The trees are shredded and transformed into municipal compost or mulch. They can even be used to help stabilise sand dunes. Finally, for those of us lucky enough to have a garden there is also the option of a pot grown tree with roots. Putting a conifer in a small pot is a bit like putting a cod in a goldfish bowl as the smallest of these trees will eventually grow to over 20ft if planted out. It pays to choose a small tree and check out the variety before purchasing. However, with a bit of luck and careful management a
potted tree will tolerate the annual Christmas ritual for several years whilst dropping very few needles and avoiding the trip to the Christmas tree graveyard.

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