Almost all of us who celebrate Christmas will put up a Christmas tree of some kind. It is one of the most recognisable symbols of Christmas. If you are considering buying a new tree this year, should you go for an artificial one or a real tree? Both have their pros and cons.
A real tree does feel somehow more festive, with the Christmassy smell of pine and the feeling of having a living thing to decorate your home with. However a real Christmas tree is a commitment, if a short term one. The dreaded ‘needle drop’ can largely be avoided if the tree is watered regularly – this applies to both rooted and cut trees, if you keep your cut tree in a special stand which can hold a water reservoir. Also, if the tree is allowed to dry out it can be a fire hazard, while an artificial tree will be fire retardant.
The next advantage of a real tree is its environmental benefits. According to Care2.com, one acre of trees grown for the Christmas market can produce enough oxygen for eighteen people. Properly managed Christmas tree farms will plant more saplings each year than the number of trees that they cut down, and provide a habitat for birds and wildlife.
When the festive season is over you do not need find storage space your tree; a rooted tree can be planted in your garden and a cut one can be recycled into mulch by your local council or government. Many provide roadside collection or easy-to-reach collection centres, open until well into January. The environmental benefits are however rather negated if your tree ends up on a bonfire or in landfill.
So what about artificial trees? They are usually much more expensive than real trees, however since it can last for several years this can work out to be more economical. You can also keep it as a standby if, for example, your cat savages the real tree or you forget to water it and it loses its needles before 25th December.
Modern types of tree which successfully mimic real trees both look good and even smell vaguely pine like – at least for the first year. Needle drop is pretty much non-existent and perfectionists can place every branch at the perfect angle if they wish.
If however you go for the retro charm of a tinsel tree, you will find that the tinsel sheds mercilessly and you will still be vacuuming pieces out of the carpet in July. I have a soft spot for tinsel trees, having grown up with them, but remember having to put plastic ends on each sharp metal branch to prevent injury. These would definitely be best avoided where small children will be running around. Artificial pine trees tend to be designed with a clump of needles at the end so that the sharp part is covered.
Any artificial tree is unlikely to be recyclable in any way, and so when it is disposed of will inevitably end up in landfill. Therefore if you choose an artificial tree it should be looked after and carefully stored so that it gives many years service.
Whatever type of tree that you choose, have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Jacqui O’Brien is the editor of eParenting.co.uk, the online parenting magazine and information resource for parents, with free printables and educational software. Visit eParenting at www.eparenting.co.uk .