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How to make your Christmas tree sustainable

Green Elf Trees hires out-of-work musicians, supporting a sector hard-hit by the pandemic.

The festive season is upon us as we begin eyeing up our advent calendars, writing up our wish lists and hanging up our stockings.

One of the best parts of Christmas is the aroma of woody pine that pervades through the home courtesy of our Christmas trees. 

However, with environmental awareness and deforestation in the global consciousness more than ever before, it is crucial that even this most comforting of traditions is given deeper consideration

Companies such as Green Elf Trees, Pines and Needles and Christmas Forest are just some of the brands paving the way to an eco-friendlier Christmas. They all sell real trees, which have a “significantly lower” carbon footprint than reusable plastic trees, according to the Carbon Trust, and they all are doing their bit for the environment and community. 

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Green Elf Trees, based in London, contributes £3 to charity for every tree purchased, supporting organisations such as Mind, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Crisis, Dogs Trust and Age UK. The company says it has “raised over £20,000″ for the various charities so far. 

Green Elf Trees is a London-based sustainable Christmas tree company. (Credit: Green Elf Trees)

On top of that, Green Elf‘s delivery team — or rather, Christmas elves — are out-of-work musicians and entertainers whose professions were hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the BBC, the music industry is one of the last sectors to recover from the pandemic, with 83 per cent of musicians still struggling to find regular work. 

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Caleb Silcock, the co-founder of Green Elf Trees, said not only are his trees helping the planet, but “one of [our] suppliers also supply the Ritz, so they are very high-quality trees.”

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Green Elf is partnered with Jadecliff, a family-owned business that has grown Christmas trees for almost 30 years. For every tree that is harvested, two are planted to replace it. All the trees accommodate wildlife such as deer, birds and insects. 

Silcock said: “We only source British trees because a lot of trees come from Europe, so if they’re coming local, they emit less carbon emissions and we optimise our deliveries around London, so it’s not based on speed, but minimising the miles spent. For our deliveries, we offset all our carbon emissions, so we’re carbon negative.” 

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Christmas Forest is another company based in London that provides real, sustainable trees. Director Veronika Kusak said: “This year we selected Earth Restoration Society for a charity, we have committed to sponsoring 40 schools that grow tree nurseries and work with local schools to teach kids about trees and the importance of them, and then those trees are planted in the local area.” 

Christmas trees account for 12,000 tonnes of the waste generated over the festive period, according to GWP Group, as people bin their trees come January. And a two-metre tree with no roots creates 16 kilograms of CO2 when disposed in a landfill, the Carbon Trust says. 

Hoping to avoid adding to the waste, these environmentally conscious companies also offer a responsible collection service.  

Kusak from Christmas Forest said: “We will pick up the trees, bring them back, and then chip them all. These chips are then donated to various councils and green spaces. Anything that isn’t claimed, will be sent to be used as biofuel.” 

According to Jadecliff, “Real trees can be mulched for landscaping and gardening, or turned into woodchips for trails, paths and ground covering.” 

Green Elf Trees makes compost with its returned Christmas trees, and in some cases, upcycles them into candles. 

If you have a tree with the roots still attached, environment minister Rebecca Pow recommends that “replanting your Christmas tree is a wonderful way to reduce your carbon footprint”.

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