London’s festive season has kicked off in sustainable style with the lighting of the iconic Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree on 6 December. The traditional annual gift comes from Norway.
This year's Christmas tree is 21 metres high and approximately 115 years old and was felled during a special ceremony on 23 November, attended by the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, the Mayor of Westminster, Angela Harvey and UK Ambassador to Norway Jane Owen. Pupils from the International School in Oslo, St Paul's Primary School in London and Lutvann School were also on hand to get the Christmas spirit started by singing carols before the tree was carefully cut and lifted by crane to begin its journey to London.
Both Fabian Stang and Angela Harvey spoke about the importance of this tradition as a symbol of the close friendship that was created between the British and Norwegians during World War II. Formally accepting the tree, Angela spoke of the gift as ‘a warm and a moving example of how positive traditions can emerge from the most tragic situations’.
The Norwegian Spruce has been harvested from a PEFC certified forest from the Ostmarka area just outside Oslo. Jon Christiansen, head of the forest owned by the city of Oslo, said: ‘The trees that are selected as potential gifts get extra care and treatment every summer. They get extra space around them so they get a lot of light and can grow free from competition from other trees. They are also fertilised and cared for so that they will have many regular branches and become dense and fine and look good as Christmas trees.’
Being from a PEFC certified area means that the forest from which the tree has been taken is managed under strict controls and guidelines, to ensure that the forest and products leaving it are legal and sustainable.
PEFC certifies over 230 million hectares of forests across 30 countries, and it is the world’s largest forest certification system.
Angela stressed the importance of the Christmas tree coming from a sustainably managed forest, saying: ‘British people are generally very concerned that everything we do must be sustainable, and we are pleased that this great gift comes from a forest managed according to sustainable principles. The international standard PEFC is an important contribution to an environmentally friendly forestry, and I am glad that Norwegians are as concerned about this as us.’
Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, added: ‘My father was a forester and I am therefore a natural supporter of us to engage in an active but sustainable forestry both in Oslo and in Norway. In Oslo's forests it is important that we take into account biodiversity and outdoor recreation and hiking areas while we also conduct active forestry.’
The tree will remain in Trafalgar Square until just before the Twelfth Night of Christmas, when it is taken down and recycled, being chipped and composted for mulch.