Use me then toss me to the kerb!

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That title might seem a bit dramatic, but I guess that is how I, myself feel when after Christmas you walk down the street, still having that little tingle from the festive season, only to have your eyes greeted with our faithful once glorious trees slung out on to the pavement.

Now, I know there is a reason for this, i.e. the refuse lorries will come to collect them and recycle them, but still, it does make one think, is this a waste?  For the more emotionally led people like me, yes I would probably have the tingly feeling linger on a little longer rather than the blatant reminder of the finality of it all seeing the pavement now akin to a Christmas Tree graveyard.

Forlorn

Forlorn

So lots of questions now running through my mind.  Let’s start at mid point, the acquisition of the Christmas Tree.  During the Christmas period as expected the pavement outside our local Garden Centre was bulging with daily deliveries from large lorries filled with Christmas Trees.  Each day these were replenished, I simply cannot imagine how many trees are bought in this period.

We take them home with pride, full of excitement and dress them up in our many varying ways, then spend days admiring them, the centre piece of most houses over this period.

My Christmas tree

My Christmas tree

Don’t we all have that special bauble, a little heirloom from past, or are you one of those people who completely re-dresses your tree differently each year?

Vintage baubles from Ever so Flo!

Vintage baubles from Ever so Flo!

A nice idea-Create an Heirloom

To me, even as an adult, walking in to a room dedicated to just Christmas baubles is quite magical, so for a child even more so.  Do you take your child to go and purchase items over this period?  If not, I really can’t recommend enough that you do so, it is a childhood memory not to be forgotten.  I used to visit a shop in Fulham, that was ‘only’ for Christmas decorations, it was closed most of the year as the Owner went around various countries picking up unusual baubles.  She said to me, “Why not let your child chose a new bauble each year, they have their own box of their own baubles that they have chosen each year and then when they are grown up, they can decorate their own tree with their childhood collection or pass it on to their children”.  What a wonderful idea, something I have only done ad-hoc and regret utterly not doing fully.

Moving on, Christmas is over, the tree is stripped, it’s almost quite callous, its finery ripped from its branches, sat there perhaps for a day naked before being wrenched from its new home and tossed on to the street, well pavement, just waiting with others for collection.

That is unless you are like me, and have a false Christmas Tree.  Mine once belonged to my mother, so I ‘sort’ of think/hope that I have been fairly ‘eco’ friendly in this matter.

So, yes probably due to too much time on my hands I wanted to find out exactly what does happen to the abandoned faithful friends left on the pavement to whither and become a pale shadow of their former glory.

I phoned up the London Borough of Richmond and Thames Council and spoke to a lovely man called David Ingham, who is………the Waste Minimisation Officer.

He informed me of the following:

– The residents do not pay an extra charge for the collection of their tree; it is swallowed up in the usual Council Tax bill.

– The trees (only real trees), are taken to a site in Oxfordshire by train to be composted in windrows. This is a large scale composting technique.  The Council have to pay for this to be done, but as David explained, the compost costs less than it costs for the Council to pay for it to be taken, but it would cost more for them to do it themselves.  The compost then is commercial grade and used in various locations.

 – I include here an additional piece of information as written by David himself to further clarify on the trees recycling:

the value of the compost produced does not cover the full cost of composting the trees so the Council still have to pay towards them being composted, but the composting fee is much less than the one they would pay to landfill the trees instead.  Moreover recycling creates more jobs than landfilling as well a useful product at the end that provides added economic value and can reduce the use of artificial fertilisers that can have a large environmental impact.  The compost produced is of a commercial grade and used in various applications like farming and landscaping, of which there is a healthy market in Oxfordshire and surrounding counties.  So the compost should face little onwards transport after it is produced.

 – He also informed me of another interesting fact just now….that elephants enjoy eating Christmas trees!  I informed him that unfortunately we had no elephants in East Sheen.  However, that would have been a very novel recycling idea 🙂

I asked David if he thought it more ‘eco’ friendly to have a false tree, than a real one.  He is very passionate and mind bogglingly knowledgeable which is re-assuring, about the where, whys, pros and cons of each scenario.  We hit a heady roundabout of the pro’s of growing the trees, to the cons of transporting them, the pro’s of using false trees if made out of the right materials, to the cons of using false trees if sourced from non eco sources and if people discard them regularly.

We did not come to any specific conclusion, other than; it’s a personal decision which should be backed by mindfulness to our carbon footprint, recycling and general wastage.

There are some great web sites for alternative uses for Christmas Trees, like bee hotels.  If you are interested please click on the links below:

 – Earth911, more ideas, less waste – fire starters, mulch and pathway edgers and even to preserve a fish habitat

 – s world.com – bee hotels

 – Networx – here we have a wealth of ideas!

– On a sundry note there is a local group that meets up to discuss environmental issues called Twickenham Green Drinks.

And now, I take a round trip, because we never discussed the history of the Christmas Tree, the reason behind it.  I myself did not know it, so took time to find out and here is what I found.
495px-Décoration_du_sapin_de_Noël[1]

“Noël”Christmas No. 1725)

The Christmas Tree custom developed in early modern Germany, whereby devout Christians dating back as early as the 16th, possibly 15th century brought these trees, usually an evergreen conifer, such a spruce, pine or fir in to their home.  The Christmas trees were hung in St Georges Church since 1521 after the popularity of this tradition spread in the second half of the 19th Century.

There is still circumspection as to the Christmas Tree’s origin however and many theories going about, which of course are interesting titbits of information in themselves, ones to either believe or not, but adds to the whole ‘feeling’ of ‘reasoning’ when one does grace a room with such a sacred sight.

It is said the Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews used evergreen trees, wreaths and garlands to symbolize eternal life.  The pagan Europeans indulged in tree worship, surviving their conversion to Christianity, the Scandinavian custom being to decorate the house and barn with evergreens upon New Year with the idea if would scare away the devil.

It is also called the tree of paradise, used in mystery plays given on the 24th December.  In such plays the tree is decorate with apples to represent forbidden fruit.  The paradise tree was later placed in homes and the apples replaced by round objects such a shiny red balls.

And here in Britain, the tradition of the tree did not happen until some two centuries ago when George III’s German born wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz introduced a Christmas tree when having a children’s party in 1800.  The custom then slowly took off after having first being embraced by the Royal Family namely Queen Victoria.

800px-Julekort,_1880[1]

Julekort, 1880

So, I lead on to finish this piece as there is much to read up on the matter should one be so inclined in learning a little bit more history on our evergreen friend.

There is also much to think about, will you change your custom next year, buy a false tree, a real one, will you buy one with roots and plant it somewhere else, will you indulge in some great way to recycle your tree or leave it slung on the pavement for the Council to collect?

As for me, I will get my faithful friend out again.  Perhaps a little different theme, but I have an abundance of baubles and treats.

Will I do what I did this year, go to Palewell Common and cut a few holly branches and pine branches to decorate back at home, yes probably?  But next time I will definitely take gloves, it was darn painful and I felt like a midnight thief wandering through the foliage finding suitable victims.

A Christmas friend

A Christmas friend

To finish, a friend said to me “now on that recycling matter what exactly did you do with your twigs of holly and pine, did you recycle it?”  I hesitated a moment, stomach sinking as to my total hypocrisy, for I had in fact cut them up and thrown them in my kitchen bin, what did I answer?  I said “oh yes, I cut them up and made them in to lovely little nests for the robin”.  He said “really?”.  I answered “oh yes, and I fed the berries to him”  At which point or probably long before I was laughed out of court, not surprising really! (grins evilly)

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