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Christmas cards and trees: what to buy and how to recycle

Did you know an estimated one billion Christmas cards are purchased in the UK each year? Or that seven million Christmas trees are bought each festive season? Such huge numbers mean it’s important to think about how your Christmas cards and trees are produced and what you’ll do with them once the celebrations are over.

Christmas cards

Choose cards that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC® ) certified. This ensures the paper used has been sustainably and ethically produced.

Once Christmas is over, your cards can be recycled. From 2008 to 2016, we worked with Marks and Spencer on a Christmas card recycling scheme. M&S funded the planting of a tree for every 1,000 cards recycled, with more than 51,000 trees planted in total.

The project is no longer running as M&S now supports the Trust through its Sparks members club (more on that below). However, there are plenty of ways you can still recycle your cards. For example you can:

Winter wonderland: The M&S Christmas Card Recycling Scheme helped us protect trees and woods across the UK. (Photo: WTML)
Winter wonderland: The M&S Christmas Card Recycling Scheme helped us protect trees and woods across the UK. (Photo: WTML)

The M&S Sparks members club

If you’re an M&S shopper, you can continue to support tree planting by joining the Sparks members club. Select the Woodland Trust as your chosen charity and M&S will donate 1p to us for every transaction. Sparks members have already raised £90,000 for the Trust – enough to plant 36,000 trees.

Find out more about our tree planting work

Christmas trees

The Woodland Trust doesn’t have an ‘official position’ on Christmas trees because we don’t manage our estate for commercial interest. However, here is some general advice on how to source and dispose of your tree sustainably.

Buying a real tree

Perhaps the most environmentally-friendly option is to buy a tree with roots. This means you can plant it in the garden afterwards, store it in a pot and bring it back into the house next year.

If you want to buy a felled tree, choosing a local grower with FSC® accreditation is best. The FSC® certificate ensures that the trees have been grown sustainably and ethically. After Christmas, you can recycle your felled tree, which will be turned into compost. Many local authorities run Christmas tree recycling schemes. If not, you can take it to the garden waste section of your nearest disposal centre.

Some garden centres and tree nurseries now offer a Christmas tree rental scheme. This allows you to rent your Christmas tree in a pot and return it to the growers afterwards. The tree is then reused in future years.

Buying artificial trees

Artificial trees are less environmentally-friendly as most are made from non-recyclable plastic. The carbon emissions generated to produce artificial trees are also very high. If you do opt for an artificial tree try to use it for as long as possible to reduce the environmental impact.

Want to do more for the environment?

Check out our eco-friendly gifts and garden products