How to conserve resources during the Christmas season
Popular Christmas tree species
The favorite species nationwide. The needles are dark green on top with a silvery underside and have a soft, blunt shape. It typically retains needles better than any other tree.
Similar to the Fraser fir, yet the needles are less dense. This tree's airiness displays ornaments well, and it's especially aromatic.
The most widely planted conifer worldwide. It has a soft bluish-green hue with short needles and graceful branches.
Eastern white pine
Dense, medium-green branches and long, hairlike needles with ample space between its branches. It's often asymmetrical in shape, yet the fresh pinewood scent's very appealing.
Colorado blue spruce
A classic choice in a silvery blue color, bottlebrush-style boughs and short, prickly needles. Its sturdy branches will support the heaviest ornaments.
by Ellen Goff
Here are some fresh ideas for an environmentally friendly approach to the holidays:
Most people could reduce their overall volume of decorations, lights and gift wrap without hardly noticing that anything is missing.
Use energy wisely. Convert some of your traditional light strings to LED-type holiday lights. Remember to turn all display lights off - both inside and out - before you go to bed.
Cut back on packaging. Don't insist on a box for every gift. Use gift bags or wrap a gift with a gift, like folding a scarf over a pair of gloves and securing it with a ribbon.
Give gifts that have more than one life.
A basket of herb plants can be welcome greenery at your window during the winter, flavor your cooking in the spring, then flourish out in your garden all summer.
Blooming bulbs like amaryllis or narcissus stay in bloom for weeks. In the spring, plant them outside to rebloom another year.
Recycle your Christmas tree
Although there are more leftovers to deal with in December, you should still salvage as much as possible.
Collect gift packaging, paper boxes and other recyclable materials and either store away for next holiday season or recycle it.
Recycle your Christmas tree, either through municipal collection or by having it ground up into garden mulch (available in some areas). Or, cut the branches off yourself and place them around your shrubbery and planting beds as an added layer of protection against weather extremes.
Keep your Christmas tree fresh
Remember to water! A tree can use up to a quart of water per day for each inch of trunk diameter. Be sure your tree stand has a substantial reservoir and check the water level twice a day.
If you're concerned about enjoying a live tree and being environmentally responsible, relax! Christmas trees protect watersheds and stabilize soil while preserving agricultural land, open space and wildlife habitat.
The cut trees are replanted each year. And, when the holidays are over, real trees can be recycled. If you want to weigh the merits of a live tree vs. an artificial one, visit the National Christmas Tree Association website at christmastree.org for a point-by-point comparison.
Ellen Goff is a master gardener and environmental advocate. Aside from writing about and photographing plants, Ellen tends to a 3-acre landscape she shares with her husband, cat and border collie on the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.