Dear Readers, here in East Finchley the absolute end of Christmas is marked by the appearance of the discarded Christmas trees outside every other house, as far as the eye can see, waiting for Barnet Council to take them away. To qualify for collection, it’s suggested that all the decorations and lights are removed (not always as easy as you’d think – in my experience there’s always some stray angel or elf or (in my case) Christmas Beetle that gets spotted at the last minute). Then, the tree has to be cut in half, which I imagine might be the source of some hilarity – certainly a chorus of Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song might be required in the houses of the over-60s.
And finally, the trees have to be put ‘at the boundary of your property’ by January 13th ‘to be collected over the next two weekends’.
I can’t help thinking that if the trees are not collected on the 14th they are going to be a right blooming nuisance for those with prams/wheelchairs/mobility issues/sight impairment for another week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the County Roads are early on the list.
One sad sight is the big Christmas tree from outside Budgens waiting to be collected. For a few years, there was a growing fir tree here, which was decorated every year, and which formed the centrepiece for the Christmas carols and the turning on of the Christmas lights. Alas, the tree sickened and died, for who knows what reason – a fairly shallow bed on a main road is probably not the best environment for a large-ish conifer, but at least everyone tried. This year there was a temporary tree. I shall be interested to see what happens for Christmas 2023.
So, what happens to all those ‘used’ Christmas trees? They are put through the chipper, allowed to compost for a bit, and then used as mulch in municipal parks and gardens, and even for things like running tracks. A tree that is recycled in this way reduces its carbon footprint by about 80% (to about 3.5kg C02e). If it ends up in landfill, a 2-metre tall tree emits about 16kg C02e, which is because a decomposing tree emits methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than methane. If you have an artificial tree, it will ‘pay for itself’ in terms of carbon after 7-20 years, depending on how it was manufactured (so I can feel nice and smug about my 30 year-old plastic tree). Probably the very best option is a potted tree which lives outside for most of the year and is brought in for a few weeks at Christmas, but that requires a fair amount of brute strength to lug it in and out of the house (and somewhere to put it for most of the year).
According to the Carbon Trust, the pot or stand should be re-used every year, as all that metal or plastic can radically impact on a tree’s environmental cost.
And so Christmas really is over, and it’s time to get stuck into 2023. Who knows what excitement it will bring? Now that the cough that has lasted nearly two month feels like it’s finally on the wane, I can’t wait.