In 2018 friends Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns were walking through the streets of London, weaving through what Catherine called a ‘Christmas tree graveyard’.
Catherine, who runs a ballet school, said: “It was so wasteful. All those beautiful trees, now dead, and there were literally piles of them.
“We thought there must be a better way to do Christmas trees. Why can’t you rent them?
“We started to look into it and started London Christmas Tree Rental as a pilot.”
The service has proved popular and the company is now sold out for 2021. After the rental period is over the trees are collected and replanted, and many customers opt to rent the same tree each festive season. It costs £55 for three weeks, plus £20 deposit.
“It’s brilliant how people have engaged with it,” Catherine added. “Most don’t realise you can rent a Christmas tree, it’s a relatively new concept.
“We really encourage customers to think of the tree as a member of the family. Christmas is a time of tradition, and it becomes a tradition to welcome the tree back in.”
Every year up to eight million Christmas trees are bought in the UK – and around seven million of those end up in landfill, releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
Darran Messem, Managing Director of Certification at the Carbon Trust, said: “A real pine or fir tree naturally absorbs CO2 and releases oxygen. The best thing you can do at Christmas is keep a tree alive and breathing.
“Disposing of a tree by composting produces CO2 and methane. An artificial tree has a higher carbon footprint than a natural one because of the energy-intensive production processes involved.
We really encourage customers to think of the tree as a member of the family. Christmas is a time of tradition, and it becomes a tradition to welcome the tree back in
Catherine Loveless, co-founder of London Christmas Tree Rental
“By far the best option is a potted tree which, with care, can be replanted after the festive season and re-used year after year.”
How a real Christmas tree is disposed of is much more significant than where it comes from and how much fuel was used to get it to your home.
If you re-plant your Christmas tree, or have it chipped to spread on the garden, that will significantly reduce the carbon footprint by up to 80%.
Burning the tree, such as on a bonfire, emits the carbon dioxide that it stored up when it was growing, so there is no net increase.
Real trees have much lower carbon footprints than artificial Christmas trees. The Carbon Trust estimates that a two-metre artificial tree has a carbon footprint of more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill, and more than 10 times that of real trees that are burnt.
An artificial tree would need to be used for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.