LAST-MINUTE shoppers who have yet to buy their Christmas tree are being urged to do their bit for the environment.

Waste experts are urging householders to buy a real tree and are running a prize draw scheme to encourage them to go green.

Tree plantations soak up greenhouse gases and can be recycled to be made into compost.

Councillor Brian Myers, Durham County Council's cabinet member for waste management, said: "Deciding to have a real Christmas tree could be the environmentally friendly option, especially if you use local facilities to recycle it.

"Until recently, imports made up a large percentage of real trees, but British growers are now producing not only a wide variety of species but almost all the trees.

"That means far less fuel is being used to transport trees over long distances across Europe."

Outlets across County Durham are taking part in a free competition in which anyone buying a real tree can win a Patagonia fleece jacket, a solar-powered wind-up radio or a wind-up torch.

Free prize draw tickets are available when buying a tree from: Poplar Tree Garden Centre, Shincliffe; Beech Tree Nurseries, Shildon; Horns Garden Centre, Shotton Colliery; Plants Garden Centre, Piercebridge; Mencap Garden Centre, Seaham; Green Lane Nurseries, Trimdon Station; Homebase Ltd, Pity Me; B&Q at Bishop Auckland, Durham and Darlington; Hopps Garden Centre, Esp Green Farm, Lanchester and The Nurseries, Consett.