Christmas trees haven’t always been part of a traditional British Christmas – they were introduced into this country (and all the Commonwealth, in fact) by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Christmas trees are a German custom – the pre-Albert British equivalent was the Yule log.
And anyone who wants a Christmas tree and also wants to live in a way that is easy on the planet and low in toxins has only one real choice when it comes to Christmas trees: a real one and never, ever a plastic one.
* Real trees come from sustainably managed plantations that act as carbon sinks as they grow, as well as doing other good things like providing a habitat for wildlife and preventing erosion. Plastic trees don’t.
* Real trees are a renewable resource.
* Real trees can be chipped and mulched as a means of disposal, so none of it should get into the waste stream. If you live in an area that permits it, the tree can also be burned on a log fire (once they’re dried out – probably next Christmas!), which is a renewable and fairly carbon-neutral form of heating. After all, not all the carbon in a tree is released into the atmosphere when it’s burned – what do you think ash and soot are? The needles should be added to the compost heap or used as a mulch. Strawberry plants are quite fond of a pine needle mulch.
* Real trees smell beautiful – and they’re releasing an antiseptic essential oil that will help you breathe more easily. And it’s that piney smell that brings back all those childhood memories.
Given all this, why do people bother with plastic trees? OK, some people are allergic to pines (poor things). And others want a picture-perfect tree, which real trees aren’t always, as nature does funny things (this writer used to grow Christmas trees for sale and once saw one tree that grew all the branches in the shape of a perfect sine curve – it wasn’t picture-perfect but it was so distinctive and unusual that it was snapped up by a buyer straight away). And some people hate the mess from all the needles. The wretched things seem to shed all over the place and turn up in all sorts of awkward places throughout the year. However, you can take steps to minimise the amount of needles shed on your carpet:
* Put the tree in water rather than a stand. Treat it like a giant cut flower. Cut about a centimetre off the end before putting it into water (like crushing the stems of roses before putting them into a vase) and add an aspirin or three into the bucket. Top up the water regularly.
* Stand the tree (and the bucket) over a sheet, which will catch all the needles. Some people like to buy a special Christmas-themed “tree skirt” or sheet for spreading under the tree (a good place to put presents on). But any nice-looking sheet will do the trick; however, don’t use your best Egyptian cottons, as any sap that gets onto the sheet will be a right pain in the backside to try getting out.
* Use a potted live tree instead. These tend to keep their needles better. Cypresses and thujas can grow nicely in pots. They may not be the traditional Norwegian Spruce you’re used to, but they have that conifer smell and shape.
Nick Vassilev runs a successful London carpet cleaning firm called CarpetFirst!. Being in the cleaning industry for more than 12 years, Nick has built a substantial knowledge base, which he wants to share with everybody with passion for carpets, cleaning and… guitars. For more info regarding carpet cleaning visit http://www.carpetfirst.co.uk