Every holiday season, eco-conscious Christmas observers ask themselves the same question: What kind of Christmas tree is the most sustainable? The answer isn’t always clear-cut (no pun intended) — but one unique option to consider is a Christmas tree rental.
One company pioneering this trend is London Christmas Tree Rental, whose story went viral on Reddit this week. Keep reading to learn how this scheme works, and for our thoughts on what kind of Christmas tree is the most sustainable.
London Christmas Tree Rental allows customers to borrow real, potted Christmas trees.
In January of 2018, Londoners Catherine Loveless and Jonathan Mearns became fed up with all the discarded Christmas trees lining the streets of their city, destined for landfill. So, they founded London Christmas Tree Rental, a company that rents out pot-grown Norway Spruce trees around Christmastime, with the motto #adoptdontchop.
Here’s how it works: In the months leading up to Christmas, customers can place their order on London Christmas Tree Rental’s website, and schedule a pickup to get their tree at one of the company’s hubs. Then, customers can keep their potted Christmas trees healthy throughout the month by watering them daily. After the holiday, customers drop their trees back off at the hubs, and the company takes them back to the farm to replant them.
There, most of these trees are able to live for another year, meaning a family can actually rent the same tree again next Christmas — as long as the customer names their tree.
"We just wanted to provide another Christmas tree option," Mearns tells Green Matters in an email. "We don’t pretend to be perfect but do feel that cutting down 7 million trees annually for a few seasonal weeks is a little too much, hence the birth of London Christmas Tree Rental. Simply rent, water and return."
Every year, around 7 million (technically between 6 and 8 million) Christmas trees are cut down in the U.K, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Worldwide, the annual number is hundreds of millions.
London Christmas Tree Rental’s potted rental trees come in four sizes: 3, 4, 5, and 6 feet tall, with prices starting at £39.50 (around $52 USD). These height offerings are pretty impressive compared to the potted Christmas trees that are commonly seen at nurseries, plant stores, and Christmas tree pop-ups this time of year, which are typically a bit shorter.
If you are interested in this model, it’s worth doing a quick Google search to see if a similar company exists in your area. London Christmas Tree Rental actually sold out of rental trees for Christmas 2021 more than a month before the holiday. Otherwise, there are a few options for keeping your Christmas tree as eco-friendly as possible.
What kind of Christmas tree is most sustainable?
Figuring out what kind of Christmas tree is most eco-friendly for your home depends on a few things. Of course, the above idea of renting a potted tree that can then be replanted is overall pretty solid — but of course, that depends on where and how the tree was grown. If the Christmas tree farm is somewhat local to you, and uses organic or sustainable farming methods, then a potted tree rental is an amazing option.
You can also buy your own potted Christmas tree at a local store. After the holiday, continue caring for it in the pot, or replant it in your yard — just do your research to make sure the plant is not invasive for your neighborhood.
There’s also the option of buying a classic real Christmas tree — ideally, try to find one that was grown somewhat locally, and make sure to compost it after the holiday. You can also ask your local Christmas tree purveyor if they have any “ugly” Christmas trees that they plan to toss, due to physical imperfections. They’ll likely be happy to let you rescue one of these delightfully flawed trees, and offer it to you at a discount, or even for free.
As for whether artificial trees are eco-friendly, that depends on a number of factors. If you already have one at home, or if you are able to score one secondhand (either at a thrift store, from a friend who is upgrading, or from your local Buy Nothing group), and you use it for years and years, it can actually be a pretty sustainable option. However, buying a brand new plastic tree, that is likely made halfway across the world, and is destined for the landfill, is not ideal — so we recommend avoiding doing so.
If you’re into DIYs, you can also make your own tree and decorations. For example, you can use fallen branches to make your own Christmas tree, string Christmas lights around a DIY book Christmas tree, or make your own compostable Christmas ornaments.
This article has been updated to include a quote from the co-founder of London Christmas Tree Rental, as well as a statistic about Christmas tree use.