Office Christmas Trees – real or fake? What’s best for the environment?

The debate rolls on year after year. But with companies trying to become ‘greener’, what’s actually best for the environment?

With a name like ‘Nature at Work’ it’s fairly obvious where we sit. What really swings it for us is the unique Christmassy aroma that a Christmas Tree emits. We often get a sigh of pleasure from staff and visitors arriving for work as we are installing a fresh tree in reception. “Ah, I love the smell of a real tree – how lovely” is a typical comment.

But what’s best for the environment?

Most environmentalists would agree that real trees are the better choice, at least from a personal and public health standpoint. Some might make a case for fake trees, because they are re-used every year and thus don’t generate the waste of their real counterparts. But fake trees are made with polyvinyl chloride (or PVC), one of the most environmentally offensive forms of non-renewable, petroleum-derived plastic.

Carbon Emissions

The Carbon Trust, which advises the public sector and businesses about how they can cut down on their carbon emissions, reckon that artificial Christmas trees have a carbon footprint at least ten times larger than a real tree. Buying a 6 foot fake tree, made from plastic, is as damaging to the environment as toasting 5,222 slices of bread or driving 120 miles in an average-sized car.

A real tree of the same size creates carbon emissions the equivalent of toasting 418 pieces of bread and driving less than 10 miles. Carbon Trust advice is to shun the white, black, pink and glittery artificial trees that are being sold by supermarkets and department stores. Retailers have reported an increase in sales of artificial trees as consumers try to economise and buy decorations that can be reused year after year. But the Carbon Trust maintains you would have to reuse your artificial tree for ten Christmases for it to be better than a real Christmas tree.”Anything made from plastic, derived from oil, which then ends up in landfill is going to be damaging.” According to the Carbon Trust, a six foot fake tree has a carbon footprint of 40kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions if it is sent to landfill.

A real tree has a footprint of 3.5kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, if it is burned or chipped and spread over the garden after Christmas. Even if it is sent to landfill, it is still far better than a fake tree, with a carbon footprint of 19.5kg.

Fake Christmas Trees and Health problems. 

Several known carcinogens, including dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, are generated during the production of PVC, polluting neighbourhoods located near factory sites. Most of those factory sites are actually in China, where 85 percent of the fake trees originate. Labour standards there don’t adequately protect workers from the dangerous chemicals they are handling. In addition to PVC, fake trees contain lead and other additives designed to make the otherwise rigid PVC more malleable.

Unfortunately many of these additives have been linked to liver, kidney, neurological and reproductive system damage in lab studies on animals.

All our trees are UK grown and are cut as late as possible so that they don't travel far, get to you really fresh, bringing that lovely Christmassy aroma into the office.

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