Londoners choose trees for life, not just for Christmas

LONDON (Reuters) - The sad sight of all those discarded Christmas trees headed for the landfill every January is making some shoppers choose to rent a tree instead.

“Well, it’s just better for the environment,” said 13-year-old Greta Schmitz-Evans at a market in northeast London, where she and her father were collecting their first rental tree.

Online store Christmas on the Hill, which specialises in selling sustainable trees and wreaths, offers re-usable rental trees sourced from a farm in Gloucestershire which are grown and live in pots, said owner Clare Slater.

“They come in this pot and you take it into your home and you look after it for three, three and a half weeks ... And then we take it back to the farm and they stay in the pots the whole time and the farm look after them ... and then you can have the same tree again the next year,” she said.

Once back at the farm, the Norway spruce trees are lowered in their pots into the ground to keep them cool and close to their natural environment.

Brits send around 7 million discarded Christmas trees to landfill every year, according to the shop’s website.

“It just seemed to tick all the boxes for me, I think it’s the way forward,” said Pinny Crane, who was out collecting her tree with her nine-year-old daughter Iris.

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The cost of a rental tree was about the same as a cut tree, Slater said, with a 7-foot (2.1-metre) tree coming in at around 76 pounds ($100).

“Logistically, we’ve got to get them from the farm and back to the farm and they’ve got to be looked after year as well. So unfortunately, they’re not any cheaper than a cut tree,” Slater said.

Norway spruce trees grow about a foot (30 cm) each year and they can happily live in a pot for about seven years before their roots are too big and they have to be retired from the rental game and planted in the ground.

When kept in a home, Slater said they need a pint of water every day and have to be kept away from radiators or fires.

Happy customers Pinny and Iris named their tree “Geoffrey” and decorated him the same day.

“I think it’s a lot better than having a dead Christmas tree or a plastic one,” Iris said in a video they filmed at home.

($1 = 0.7459 pounds)

Reporting by Will Russell and Sarah Mills; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Alison Williams