Before we start this article, it's important to raise one small contrarian point... If you are considering a new tree - real, recycled, fake - I am not sure who said a Christmas tree had to be a big assed green pine thing dripping with microplastic glitter & plastic ornaments anyway?
TO CUT TO THE BOTTOM LINE WITH TRADITIONAL TREES, REAL TREES GENERALLY TRUMP FAKE, WITH CONDITIONS, BUT AS ALWAYS, ANYTHING RECYCLED WILL TRUMP BOTH FAKE AND REAL. (WITH APOLOGIES FOR THE TRUMP REFERENCE FOR ANYONE STILL AFFECTED BY THAT KIND OF THING.)
For many people, tradition is exactly what Christmas is about so let's have a look at the pine tree options first.
Thousands of real trees are cut down and sold every year and on the surface you'd think a real tree is hands down better than a fake. After all, a real tree absorbs more than 1 ton of CO2 throughout its lifetime and each acre of farmed trees will produce enough oxygen for the daily needs of 18 people.
THE PROBLEM WITH REAL TREES IS THAT WE TYPICALLY CHOP DOWN A NEW TREE EACH YEAR. SO IT IS THE RECYCLING OF THE TREE THROUGH SOME KIND OF PROGRAM IS THE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTOR TO GIVING REAL (CUT DOWN) TREES THEIR LEAD OVER PLASTIC FAKES.
Christmas trees are recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening or chipped and used for playground material, hiking trails, paths and walkways.
If you really want a live pine tree, the best bet by far is to consider getting a potted tree like a Norfolk Island Pine and either planting it somewhere after Christmas or start small and keep it for years in the pot. Though not feasible for everybody because of climate and home size, living trees make perfect Christmas trees and are the gift that keeps on giving. You simply have to limit the time they spend indoors - to about 10 days.
Of course, you can also decide to get a potted tree or bush of any kind that can act as a Christmas Tree, including many edibles.
Most fake plastic trees are made of metal and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This essentially means fake trees are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable and will sit in a landfill for centuries to come once dumped. And if you really want a fake tree, just make sure you keep it for 20 years or more.
Fake plastic trees have about three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than the natural tree. Unless you keep a fake plastic tree for more than 10 years, real trees are a better environmental bet.
There are actually all kinds of fake plastic tree alternatives around if you do a little digging - and many of them environmentally friendly. Timber Revival in Melbourne for example, sells a fantastic tree out of recycled timber offcuts. You can order them online and they arrive flat packed.
There are many excellent options for making Christmas trees out of pretty much anything. Driftwood trees, old tree branch trees, a floral arrangement on a chair. There is a fair argument that people who insist on buying green trees – fake or real, lack imagination.
You really can make a Christmas tree out of just about anything – wood, books, scrap paper, metal coat, branches, hangers, felt. Anything you can shape into your image of Christmas and make it your own.
The trick to DIY anything is confidence and a bit of flair. How many times have you been away for Christmas and made your own tree out of whatever you could find at the beach or in the bush?
A tree can easily be a string of Christmas cheer on a wall or a shaped tree on a board. The reality is that all you need be sure of is that there is space underneath for your presents!
This information comes with a warning to the more faint hearted, especially if you are eating anything that was previously hanging on your Christmas tree. The predecessor of the modern fake Christmas tree was actually the toilet brush. Invented by Addis Brush Company from brush bristles in the 1930s, it is widely thought to be the original backbone of today’s fake trees.
This one is a copy of the original idea, made by Kuno Prey (a designer who collaborated with Alessi) in 2005 and sold for around $375USD at the time. The 'tree' scales up to 150 centimetres tall and while there seem to be many images of them on Google, they are no longer being manufactured. If you want one, you'll have to fossick in the secondhand market.
I don't know about you, but for my taste, the entire look is a bit too close to a toilet brush stand at the hardware or supermarket for my choosing. Which of course brings the point that looking at your Xmas tree will never be quite the same, will it?
Australia has it's own Christmas Tree - the Nuytsia floribunda. It's is actually the largest parasite in the world, with roots armed with blades that slice into the roots of other trees and steal their sap. Not exactly Aussie mateship, but there it is!