Recycle, reduce and reuse this Christmas
by Ellen Goff
Here are some of the most popular Christmas tree species:
• Fraser fir — 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.
• Balsam fir — Similar to the Fraser fir, yet the needles are less dense. This tree's airiness displays ornaments well, and it's especially aromatic.
• Scotch pine — 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.
Facing the holidays doesn't have to drain your energy, emotions or budget. This year, consider a different approach that's more thoughtful and sustainable and less about the stuff. Here are some fresh ideas:
Most people could reduce their overall volume of decorations, lights and gift wrap without hardly a 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 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.
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 them.
• Recycle your Christmas tree through municipal collection or have it ground up into garden mulch. Or, cut the branches off and place them around your shrubbery and planting beds as an added layer of protection against weather extremes.
A Fresh Tree
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! More than 1,600 North Carolina Christmas tree growers are protecting water sheds and stabilizing soil, while preserving agricultural land, open space and wildlife habitat. North Carolina is second only to Oregon in Christmas tree production, growing almost 20 percent of the nation's live Christmas trees — an estimated 50 million trees on over 25,000 acres. The cut trees are replanted each year.
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.