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Live Christmas trees: why they are more environmentally friendly than the artificial ones and where to find the"right" trees
Премия рунета 2017

Live Christmas trees: why they are more environmentally friendly than the artificial ones and where to find the"right" trees

13 december 2018
Experts of WWF-Russia told why a well-chosen live Christmas tree causes less harm to nature than an artificial Christmas tree and how to choose the main decoration of the upcoming holidays.
The topic of responsible consumption becomes particularly relevant on the eve of the New Year and winter holidays, which raises the question: "What Christmas tree to choose, a live or an artificial one?" Ecologists from different countries of the world unanimously declare that the competently chosen live Christmas tree is much more environmentally friendly, than a reusable artificial one. This is also evidenced by numerous Russian and foreign research, for example, a joint study of WWF-Russia with the Eco-bureau GREENS.

The matter is that the use of an artificial Christmas tree is associated with higher emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The increase in the concentration of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere leads to climate change and therefore our planet is increasingly suffering from natural disasters and temperature spikes. Production of artificial Christmas trees at plants and their delivery from China, which is the main exporter to Russia, are associated with high energy costs. The total "carbon footprint" of a live Christmas tree is 2.6 kg of CO2. Even if we consider that it is used only one season, and an artificial Christmas tree is used in an average of 5-6 years, the CO2 emissions from the use of live Christmas trees are almost 3.5 times less. In addition, natural wood, unlike plastic, is completely biodegradable.

Therefore, if you want to cause less damage to nature, choose a live Christmas tree for your home. In this case, be sure to buy it only from organizations, i.e. in forestry units, legal Christmas markets, shops, which must have appropriate documents. If your tree was cut down by an individual in an unknown place, then your purchase is likely to encourage the degradation of forest ecosystems. Unlike employees of forestry units, poachers will not plant a new tree instead of a cut down one. So before you buy a Christmas tree, make sure that the seller has not broken the law.

“Indeed, many Christmas trees that appear in ‘grey’ Christmas markets are not logged in a sustainable way and they could grow further and replace old trees in the forest. The raising popularity of the eco-trend in the form of buying Christmas trees in pots in Russian realities is often only a beautiful gesture, but does not help to restore forest ecosystems. For such a tree to survive until spring, when it can be planted in the ground, a fairly complex care throughout the winter is needed, and even in this case it cannot be guaranteed that the tree would survive. So buying Christmas tree at a legal Christmas market is the most environmentally friendly and effective solution,” explains Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.
(с) Nikolay Kuznetsov / WWF-Russia
(c) Pavel Fomenko / WWF-Russia
If you already have an artificial Christmas tree at home, do not change it every year and keep using it as long as possible, at least 10 years, to reduce the total impact on environmental from its production. For those who are just going to make their choice, environmentalists recommend to choose a live tree from Christmas market, where sellers can provide relevant documents.

“Some time ago, our parliamentarians proposed to introduce additional duties on live Christmas trees sold at Christmas markets. Such a decision can prevent many citizens from making an environmentally correct choice in favor of a living tree. It would be much more beneficial for the environment and economy of the country to support environmentally responsible entrepreneurs, create a favorable investment climate and make appropriate changes to the legislation to encourage the creation of forest nurseries instead of abandoned agricultural lands, which can be found in abundance throughout the country. In the meantime, neither in Moscow Region nor near St. Petersburg any plantations of Christmas trees could be found, as now the legislation prohibits the use of agricultural land for forest plantations," says Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF-Russia Forest Program Director.

With a maximum estimate of the need for Christmas trees, which is one tree for four people in Russia, every year the entire population of the country needs to harvest 144 million trees. Their cultivation will require about 18 000 ha of plantations, each hectare having about 2 000 trees. For the Christmas tree to grow to the size when it can be cut, one needs about 7 years, that is, in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of ecologically responsible logged trees to the Christmas markets of the country, it is necessary to allocate about 126 000 hectares for such plantations. This is not such a large area, especially given the fact that Russia has now from 70 million to 100 million hectares of abandoned agricultural lands. This week, the official appeal of WWF-Russia and Greenpeace to give such lands a clear legal status was handed over personally to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

In this regard, on the eve of the winter holiday season, WWF-Russia urges not only consumers, but also the authorities to show environmentally responsible behavior so that live Christmas trees logged without any damage to nature, could more frequently decorate Russian houses.

Headline photo: (c) Pavel Fomenko / WWF-Russia
For additional information please contact
Forest Program Director, Sustainable Forestry Magazine Editor-in-Chief