Green Christmas 2021, real or fake tree? What to choose

Plastic fir has a greater environmental impact than real trees. As long as they are grown or come from sustainably managed forests. The advice of Pefc Italia

December 8th, a day traditionally destined to decorate the Christmas tree, is approaching and like every year the controversy returns: it is more correct to buy a fake tree or a real tree? To reiterate the greater sustainability of a real tree for the holiday season is the Pefc Italy, the promoter of the correct and sustainable management of the forest heritage. According to Ispra data, in fact a 2 meter long artificial tree has a carbon footprint of around 40 kg of CO2 equivalent emissionsnot to mention that fake trees take over 200 years to degrade in the environment.

Choosing a real fir tree for Christmas, reminds Pefc Italia, instead means putting one in your home breathing plant (even when severed), it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen and essential oils which purify the home and, once its life cycle is over, it returns to being organic substance. These plants can therefore be seen as a cog in Nature’s natural filtration engine, as opposed to energy-consuming and polluting products such as plastic, metal and paint trees destined for landfills.

The choice of a real fir, both grown in specialized nurseries and from sustainable forest management activities, also allows us to support farms that employ hundreds of people in mountainous areas that have a tendency to depopulation and where income is decidedly lower than that of the lowland areas; creating a positive relationship between city and mountains and distancing oneself from production systems far from us and incompatible with the environment.

It is very important to consider the origin of the tree: the closer it is to the place of cultivation or the forest from which it was taken, the lower the impact on the environment due to transport will be. Also for this reason Pefc Italia remembers always read the label: the coupon that we find on the tree or on the top should show the origin from specialized crops, the nationality, the age of the tree and the non-destination for reforestation (to avoid genetic mixing and therefore damage to native fir trees).

According to Coldiretti, the Italian firs 90% of available on the Christmas market derive from specialized nursery crops managed by small Italian farms in the rural area. The remaining 10% (the so-called tops or spruce tips or young plants intended for cutting), derives from normal forest management practices of thinning, essential for better development of the forests, from cutting plants along roads or power lines or from interventions cleaning after extreme meteoric events, as happened for example in October 2018 with the windstorm Vaia.

Another decisive element in the choice of the Christmas tree is the certification which guarantees maximum transparency in terms of traceability, legality, and respect for the environment. This is why it is important to opt for trees produced by Pefc certified forest companies, recognizable by the logo on the label. “The certification scheme guarantees maximum transparency in terms of traceability and respect for the territories. There are hundreds of companies already certified: choosing their products means strengthening a virtuous circle and helping to change the entrepreneurial choices of companies in the forest-wood supply chain ”, explains Antonio Brunori, Secretary General of Pefc Italy.

How to take care of a real fir? It is advisable to place it in a bright place, away from heat sources and at the same time away from too strong drafts: therefore neither next to the heated radiator nor to the window. An important aspect, especially for potted plants, is to water the tree regularly, once every 1-2 days. A trick that is as simple as it is effective is to place ice cubes in the vase of the tree, so that the earth in the vase always remains moist. For sustainability, synthetic snow or colored sprays should be avoided, preferring natural products and carriers of social and personal messages for the decorations.

What to do after the holidays? The real cut and potted trees that you do not want to keep for the following years, will then have to be disposed of correctly, taking them to the ecological islands: in this way they will be transformed into compost useful for the growth of new plants. Replanting the trees of the pots in the woods is not, however, a correct choice. Placing them in woods means creating potential ecological problems (fir is not part of the natural forests of the plains / hills) and genetic pollution (we cannot know the tree’s heritage or diseases). It is therefore better to choose, where possible, your own home garden, taking care not to place them too close to buildings because the fir trees grow quickly.