Christmas cards and trees: what to buy and how to recycle
Christmas is a fantastic time of year, but it’s also a period of heavy consumption and this can take its toll on the environment. For example, an estimated one billion Christmas cards and seven million Christmas trees are bought each UK 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. This way you can enjoy the festivities while limiting your impact on the environment.
Choose cards that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC® ) certified. This ensures the paper used has been sustainably and ethically produced.
Try to buy plastic-free cards too – ours are now wrapped in paper rather than cellophane, and use vegetable inks and a water-based varnish too. Browse our Christmas card range.
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 which funded the planting of a tree for every 1,000 cards recycled. More than 51,000 trees were 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). But you can recycle your cards in lots of other ways, including:
- Pop them down to your local recycling point
- Turn them into decorations or gift tags for next Christmas
- Use them for kids' Christmas card crafts.
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 helped us plant thousands of trees!
We don’t have an ‘official position’ on Christmas trees because we don’t manage our estate for commercial interest. But 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.
Other eco-friendly Christmas ideas
Here are a few other ways you could enjoy a more sustainable Christmas:
- Buy presents from responsible retailers. For example, every sale made on the Woodland Trust shop directly funds our conservation work
- Choose reusable over single-use throwaway items where possible, like our felt advent calendar than can be refilled with treats year after year
- Save wrapping paper and reuse it – and avoid any with plastic glitter
- Limit the amount of time that Christmas lights are switched on
- Plan meals carefully to avoid food waste.
More ways to enjoy and help nature this winter
Winter is a magical time to explore a different side to the woods. From cold, crisp mornings to chilly starlit evenings, discover a winter wonderland near you.
Feeding wild birds: what, how, when and why
Environmentally-friendly gardening: 10 top tips
UK winter wildlife quiz: true or false?
Winter tree identification – twigs, buds and silhouettes