How green is your tree?
IN the name of the environment, Clarence Valley residents have been urged to reduce their carbon footprints by making simple choices in life such as shopping locally and choosing to ride a bike instead of driving.
But sometimes the lowest emission choice is not the most obvious.
Like what is the greenest option for a Christmas tree?
At the Copenhagen summit last week Victoria’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings came up with the answers.
He told ABC radio of a new study by Sustainability Victoria that found that the greenhouse gas emissions generated by a plastic Christmas tree were up to more than two-and-a-half times more than a natural, cut tree.
He said about 85 per cent of the emissions from a plastic tree came during the manufacturing process and the materials used in the tree, including PVC, steel and in some cases, lead.
“We’ve found, quite surprisingly perhaps, that a natural tree has less greenhouse gas emissions associated with it,” Mr Jennings said.
“We estimate that due to the combination of manufacture and transport and disposal for a plastic tree, they generate somewhere in the order of 48 kilograms of carbon dioxide associated with each tree, and on average people keep these plastic trees about six years.
“So that means that their annual contribution to greenhouse gases is somewhere in the order of eight kilograms per tree.
“If you compare that with a natural grown tree, we estimate that around three kilograms is consumed by the growing, the transportation and the disposal of a natural tree.”
Mr Jennings said most Christmas trees that were grown across Australia were not trees that were subject to irrigation or additional watering, and most grew relatively naturally.
But in the end, the battle of the lowest carbon tree was won by a potted plant that didn’t require a lot of watering.
“We think the wisest decision is to get a potted tree that people can look after themselves, that they can keep over a lifetime,” Mr Jennings said.
He suggested a wollemi pine because it was a rare species that was native to Australia. It grew relatively slowly, and would be able to be kept in a back yard, to be brought out at Christmas each year.
“With the sale of the purchase price of these trees, some of the money goes back into supporting its conservation in the wild. There’s only about 100 of the mature trees in Australia,” Mr Jennings said.