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Which Christmas tree: Real, artificial or pot-grown?

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

It's that annual dilemma - real or artificial, cut or pot-grown, large or small, local or foreign?

The decision to buy a Christmas tree has become a tricky business. I don't want to sound smug, but I'm feeling fairly virtuous after buying a medium-sized pot-grown tree at the weekend, which is now standing proud in the living room and filling the house with the unmistakable scent of Christmas.

Let's face it, you can't beat a real tree.

Although having said that, it's become a politically, environmentally and ethically sensitive issue that is hotly discussed and argued over with increasing fervour every year.

In the same way that people ask you where you're getting your turkey from, everyone now also wants to know where your tree has come from and how many miles it's travelled to get to you.

Christmas Tree at Llynnau Mymbyr by Peter.

Christmas Tree at Llynnau Mymbyr by Peter.

I've checked out the Carbon Footprint Calculator which informs me that a cut real tree costs 3.5 kilos of carbon emissions every year, whereas a potted tree takes in 10 kilos of carbon annually.

But the shocking statistic is that an artificial tree can cost 60 kilos of carbon emissions, which means you'd need to keep it a good few years in order for it to even things out.

Retailers across Wales are also reporting that customers are now asking them where the trees have come from, in the same way that they'd ask about food miles.

It's no longer just a matter of worrying about dropping needles all over the carpet, but of having to think about global issues like deforestation and greenhouse gasses when making your annual tree purchase.

Prince Albert - who first introduced the idea of bringing trees into the home for Christmas in the UK - has a lot to answer for.

In Carmarthenshire, we have the option of a 'cut-and-choose' Christmas tree farm at Salem near Llandeilo - a bit like pick your own fruit farms in the summer and then there's Wales's biggest Christmas tree farm at Three Crosses on Gower, where they grow an impressive quarter of a million trees annually between 3 and 20 feet tall.

Average prices for trees this year are around £40, which does seem like a lot of money, especially if the tree in question isn't going to make it past the New Year.

So many considerations, so little time.

The Welsh Government is also attempting to ease the guilt for us. As part of their Plant! project, they've been planting a native tree for every child born in Wales since 2008 - or rather Coed Cadw and the Forestry Commission are doing so on their behalf.

That's more than 100,000 trees so far and counting....

It might also be worth mentioning that our carbon footprint increases by around 6% in December, compared to other months - mainly due to all the extra shopping, eating and journeys to visit relatives that add to the festive frenzy.

I've read the label on my tree and if I look after it and remember to water it over the festive period, I should be able to plant it out in the New Year and keep it alive for next Christmas.

Now that's what you call forward-planning!


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