I’m fed up hearing about how dreadful it is to have a real Christmas tree. That I should buy a fake one because it will last a long time and produce less waste, I should buy one in a pot and keep it alive, or that I should abandon all vestiges of consumerism and spend Christmas in a cave wrapped in discarded newspaper.

Well, okay, no one’s suggested that last one yet but it’s only a matter of time.

If you’re facing the same dilemma, here are a few factors to consider.

Fake ones – nice to look at but it just doesn’t feel the same (like many other fake, er… things)

Fake trees are manufactured using materials like PVC (polyvinyl chloride – very un-green petroleum-derived plastic) and often travel thousands of miles from the factory to their destination markets.

They don’t just come with a high carbon footprint, they can cause health problems too. The manufacturing process (often in countries with little or no staff safety legislation) produces carcinogens – cancer-causing particles. Closer to home, it’s also been said that some plastic trees give off a lead-based dust that, if inhaled, can lead to liver or kidney diseases or even fertility problems.

Are we all agreed that this cancels out any merit implied by their long life - so long, in fact, that they’ll outlive your great-great-grandchildren on a landfill tip somewhere?

There’s nothing quite like the real thing

Buying a real tree in a pot and tending to it year after year sounds like a lovely green-fingered, green-minded approach. It’s the perfect solution if you are willing and able to manage it.

Firstly you need to have room for it, i.e. a garden or at least a balcony (I have neither). Secondly, how big is it going to get? If you want it to grow into a nice big healthy looking tree you could be waiting a while – and you’ll have to re-pot it like any other plant, or even plant it in the ground. Lots of digging, and we all love doing outdoorsy things like that when its -11°C.

Or you could buy one at the size you want and hope that it lasts – not likely if you buy it pre-cultivated. Advice given is that trees are dormant in winter and shouldn’t be indoors for more than a week. If they warm up too much they could ‘wake up’ early and start to grow – this means they’re unlikely to survive once they’re back in the cold outdoors.

One day when I have a garden I’ll give it a go, but the poor thing will probably meet the same fate as most of the plants I’ve ever owned – an untimely demise.

Why buy a pre-cut real tree? There’s something so nostalgic and cheering about the smell of the sap, the ordeal of getting it home (this year we borrowed a shopping trolley, which we returned of course!) and the experience of picking one out from the yard and watching it get wrapped up so you can manhandle it back home.

It is a shame that these trees are ‘killed’ just to stand looking glamorous in a corner for a matter of days. It’s like buying someone a bunch of flowers or worse still, letting a bag of salad go off in the fridge. But like the flowers (not so much the limp radicchio) a real Christmas tree brings delight and enjoyment to families, especially children – and cats.

They also cause problems for Councils that don’t use discarded trees for things like compost or biomass fuel. Many trees are sprayed with pesticides too. Some producers do make sure the environmental impact is kept to a minimum, so if there’s an ethical supplier near you (and you don’t mind paying a few quid extra) that’s an option that might shrink your tree-guilt.

Think global, act local

Coniferous trees are grown in (but not native to) Scotland. They are cultivated on a large-scale to meet the needs of the timber industry. Production is largely sustainable as the industry is maintained through replanting – wood is, after all, renewable. According to one source, an acre of Douglas fir trees can absorb 11,308.7 lbs of carbon dioxide each year.

My verdict? Buying a real tree – potted or not - supports Scottish producers and suppliers. Your money’s going to local businesses rather than supermarkets and far-flung cancer factories. Some charities even sell trees to raise money for their causes too – it’s worth doing a bit of research to inform your choice of holiday horticulture.

Still not sure? There’s no need to cancel Christmas – for me, spending money on a real tree is better for the economy and the environment. When it comes to the age-old debate – real vs fake – real’s the winner for me every time. We do have a choice, and what we decide to do (not just at Christmas but every day) has an impact on the world around us – so it is worth considering what’s right for you and what reflects your values

What’s your view? Got any ideas for alternatives to having a Christmas tree? Leave a comment and let us know… and have a happy holiday season!

- Ruth

PS Fancy something canny to put under your tree (fake, real, or home-made)? The new Kitchen Canny kit can help your kitchen run like a well oiled machine! A pretty good way to start the New Year.