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There's a sustainable solution to the real vs. artificial tree dilemma: Christmas tree rentals

A number of companies now let customers rent trees as a sustainable alternative to buying a single-use cut one.

There's a sustainable solution to the real vs. artificial tree dilemma: Christmas tree rentals
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/MMarieB

Picking out a festive fir is an age-old tradition that has become a key symbol of Christmas along with the likes of Santa Claus, the mistletoe, candy canes, gifts, and more. However, it isn't exactly what you'd call environmentally friendly as come January, pavements are lined with old trees that are eventually unceremoniously dumped in landfills. Aside from the obvious wastage of money involved in this practice, it also carries a staggering carbon footprint as, according to the Carbon Trust, a two-meter tall tree that ends up in landfills produces 16kg of CO2.


While many have started using artificial Christmas trees in an effort to counter this issue, for most people, nothing beats the real thing. Fortunately, there is an eco-friendly option you can try: Christmas tree rentals. A number of companies now let customers rent trees as an alternative to buying a single-use cut one. One such company is Love A Christmas Tree in Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire, which is run by Alastair and Diane Lucking. "The renting idea evolved from a eureka moment whilst on holiday," Alastair told BBC. "It covered two aspirations, to be more environmental than any current tree offering - real or plastic - and creating a business disrupter product for the Christmas tree market."


The Luckings import saplings from Denmark and replant them in special containers with tiny holes around the side, which allows the smaller roots to grow into the surrounding soil. When the trees are tall enough and harvested, these smaller roots break off but the majority of the roots stay in the pot, making replanting relatively easy. "When the trees are replanted they continue to grow, and some people rent the same tree each year," Alastair explained. "We tie a tag to each one with a number, and name, and record it in a book. One of our customers has a young family member who measures his height against the tree each year to see how much he's grown."


Trees are delivered to customers from the beginning of December and are picked back up in the first week of January to be replanted. "Customers love having a real live tree, but they hate having to take it to the skip to be chipped at the end of Christmas," Alastair said. London Christmas Tree Rental is another company that lets people rent a tree in a pot. The founders, Jonathan Mearns and Catherine Loveless, told Bored Panda that the idea for their business was the result of one day in January when they took a stroll through the streets of London and noticed what could only be called a graveyard of Christmas trees.


Moved by the sorry sight, they thought to themselves that there must be a way to do Christmas trees differently. "We explored the rental concept and in our research, we learned that 7 million cut trees go into landfills each year and when they rot they emit greenhouse gasses. The average rotting 6ft tree produces 16kg of CO2. When we realized this, we felt we had to try and make this rental idea work,” explained Catherine Loveless.


"The trees have names based on London boroughs according to their size. Our smallest tree, Mr. Kensington is because Chelsea and Westminster is the smallest borough in London. Mr. Bromley, our mighty 7 footer is due to Bromley being the largest borough. Miss Fulham comes in at a delightful 4ft, Mr. Westminster is our 5 footer, and Miss Islington is our 6 footer," elaborated Catherine. "We encourage the family to give them first names so that they can welcome them into the home each Christmas, on the whole, the trees are very well behaved and make perfect house guests!"


"All the trees are returned to the farm in January where they are cared for till the following year. If a customer has liked their tree, then it can return to them the following year.  97% of these rollover trees survived the 2 heatwaves this summer and were able to return to customers this year. They become part of the family and the customer is excited to see how much it has grown," said Catherine. 

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