Give the Environment a Holiday Gift – Celebrate Sustainably

We love the holidays!  It is wonderful time of celebration, of family, of good food and good times.  However, despite all of the good times and feelings, it can also be a time of excess, waste, and great stress.  With a little thought, we think that you can green your holiday rituals and celebrations and make them more meaningful.  Read on for a few tips on how to celebrate the holidays more sustainably.

The Christmas Tree – Real or Fake?

Real

  • Christmas tree farms encompass many thousands of acres across the US and Canada, keeping an awful lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  And for every tree that is harvested each year, it is typically replaced by more tree seedlings which will continue to sequester carbon dioxide for us.
  • They provide desperately needed food and habitat for many of our wild creatures.
  • Make sure that you are buying local to reduce your transportation duns on the environment.

Fake

  • Fake trees are primarily made of plastic and mostly in China.  Transportation costs are high for this option, as are environmental ones from the non-biodegradable plastics to the possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • Invasive insects such as grubs could also have hitched a ride so they might pose an additional challenge.
  • However, it is possible that some people with allergies to pollen or terpenes will likely benefit from use of a fake tree.  In that case, be sure to store the tree carefully so that it’s many usages over the years will overcome its high carbon footprint.
  • Consider using a potted tree.  It has the advantage of being able to be used for a number of years and then when it becomes too big to move, it can be planted in your yard.

For more information about the real vs. fake dilemma, read on for this very helpful and informative article from The Nature Conservancy.

Christmas Lights

  • Make the switch to LED lights that use one tenth as much energy as conventional holiday lights and last much longer.
  • Recycle your old lights.  Home Depot offers a recycling option before the holidays, but for those of you just reading this article that certainly won’t work.  Holiday LEDs (www.holidayleds.com) offers a year round recycling option.  Send them your old lights and they will send you a 15% coupon towards a purchase of new LED lighting.  For details, go to their recycling information page.
  • Use your lights sparingly.  Turn them off during the day and when most people are in for the night.  Timers are an effective way to manage this.  Don’t keep them on when no one is around.  This also helps to reduce potential fire hazards.

Gifting

  • Give the gift of an experience.  Whether a show or sporting event you will make memories to cherish.
  • Buy less.  Give the gift of your time.  It can be promising to take an elderly relative on errands or doing yard work or other house work.   Make homemade coupons or certificates!
  • Buy local.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  Not only does it reduce transportation costs, but it also supports your local community.
  • Minimalize your consumerism.  Instead of giving to everyone, have a Secret Santa gift exchange.  Add a twist to it with a White Elephant gift exchange and you can have a lot of fun trying to come up with the best gift in the exchange.  (Rules)
  • Give to favorite charity for your group.
  • Give handmade gifts.  They are always so appreciated.  From your homemade breads, cookies, or jams to knitted or crocheted items, the list of possibilities are endless.
  • Give gifts of books and magazines to help spread the “green” bug.

Wrapping

  • Çhoose sustainable gift wrap.  Use recycled wrapping paper.  Avoid use metallic or glossy paper that are not so environmentally friendly.
  • Use gift bags.  They are easily reused year after year.
  • Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap.  This can include fabric, handkerchiefs, bandanas, scarves, thin towels, newspaper, and discarded paper items.  Put your gift in a pretty reusable basket.
  • Ribbons are easy to save and reuse.  Cut down used wrapping paper and reuse.
  • Save your holiday cards and use to make gift tags.

Your Holiday Dinner

  • Don’t forget to avoid using disposable products – no paper napkins or plates or glasses.  This is the time to bring out your holiday tableware.  Washing dishes afterwards is a small price to pay to reduce your trash output.
  • Food.  Buy local, free range and organic.  All of these options reduce the impact of your food choices on the environment.  They also have the added benefit of being the healthier choice.
  • Avoiding buying beverages in individual containers will also reduce waste.
  • Don’t forget to compost as much as you can from the holiday leftovers.

These are just a few suggestions out of the many possibilities for minimizing your environmental impact during the holiday season.   We think that employing them will help you minimize the amount of waste from your celebrations and also help to minimize your stress levels.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season from the Ewing Green Team!

Tips for Recycling Your Christmas Tree

Next week we will be seeing that holiday staple, the Christmas tree, that gave its all for Christmas cheer, forlorn and discarded by the hundreds at the curbside.   Ewing Township, of course, collects your tree at the curb for recycling into mulch to be used around local parks, however, there are also many environmentally- and taxpayer-friendly ways you can use your tree on your own property.

Reuse your Christmas tree around your home and in your yard this winter and not only will you nourish the landscape, providing valuable resources and habitat for the environment, but you can also help reduce staff time with tree pickup, saving taxpayer dollars.

  • Winter mulch
    Evergreens provide winter insulation for tender plants in your yard and reduce frost heaving. Cut the boughs from the tree and place them over any delicate plants for the winter.   They also help alleviate the weight of snow on branches that might otherwise break from the added load.
  • Mulch with the needles
    Needles from your tree dry out quickly and decompose slowly.  They make an excellent mulch for the garden.  Pine needles are full of nutrients that can reduce the PH of your soil if its more alkaline.  Many on a branch fall off the boughs placed in the beds during the winter.
  • Brush Pile for Wildlife Habitat
    Wildlife need snug hiding places and protection from winter weather. Make a small brush pile from the boughs in a back corner of your yard and create a safe place to support our threatened vanishing wildlife.  Or leave your tree intact and place it in its stand outdoors.  Fill it with bird feeders hung from the boughs.  Again, this makes a wonderful addition to wintertime habitat for a variety of small animals such as birds, rabbits, and squirrels…
  • Firewood
    You can use your tree as firewood, but not right away. The wood is wet and can pose a fire hazard. Cut your tree up and let it dry out and then use in an outdoor fire pit.  It’s not good with an inside fireplace, but works well outside.
  • Fresheners
    Make a sachet from the tree’s pine needles to keep that Christmas scent in your home throughout the New Year.
  • Fish feeders
    Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Coasters
    The creative and crafty among us can make round coasters from the trunk.

These are just a few suggestions garnered from our own usage and around the web.  Perhaps you can think of more.

The Ewing Green Team hopes you all had a great holiday season and sends best wishes for  a wonderful New Year.

1. http://www.realchristmastrees.org/dnn/All-About-Trees/How-to-Recycle

Give the Environment a Holiday Gift – Celebrate Sustainably

We love the holidays!  It is wonderful time of celebration, of family, of good food and good times.  However, despite all of the good times and feelings, it can also be a time of excess, waste, and great stress.  With a little thought, we think that you can green your holiday rituals and celebrations and make them more meaningful.  Read on for a few tips on how to celebrate the holidays more sustainably.

The Christmas Tree – Real or Fake?

Real

  • Christmas tree farms encompass many thousands of acres across the US and Canada, keeping an awful lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.  And for every tree that is harvested each year, it is typically replaced by more tree seedlings which will continue to sequester carbon dioxide for us.
  • They provide desperately needed food and habitat for many of our wild creatures.
  • Make sure that you are buying local to reduce your transportation duns on the environment.

Fake

  • Fake trees are primarily made of plastic and mostly in China.  Transportation costs are high for this option, as are environmental ones from the non-biodegradable plastics to the possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • Invasive insects such as grubs could also have hitched a ride so they might pose an additional challenge.
  • However, it is possible that some people with allergies to pollen or terpenes will likely benefit from use of a fake tree.  In that case, be sure to store the tree carefully so that it’s many usages over the years will overcome its high carbon footprint.
  • Consider using a potted tree.  It has the advantage of being able to be used for a number of years and then when it becomes too big to move, it can be planted in your yard.

For more information about the real vs. fake dilemma, read on for this very helpful and informative article from The Nature Conservancy.

Christmas Lights

  • Make the switch to LED lights that use one tenth as much energy as conventional holiday lights and last much longer.
  • Recycle your old lights.  Home Depot offers a recycling option before the holidays, but for those of you just reading this article that certainly won’t work.  Holiday LEDs (www.holidayleds.com) offers a year round recycling option.  Send them your old lights and they will send you a 15% coupon towards a purchase of new LED lighting.  For details, go to their recycling information page.
  • Use your lights sparingly.  Turn them off during the day and when most people are in for the night.  Timers are an effective way to manage this.  Don’t keep them on when no one is around.  This also helps to reduce potential fire hazards.

Gifting

  • Give the gift of an experience.  Whether a show or sporting event you will make memories to cherish.
  • Buy less.  Give the gift of your time.  It can be promising to take an elderly relative on errands or doing yard work or other house work.   Make homemade coupons or certificates!
  • Buy local.  We can’t emphasize this enough.  Not only does it reduce transportation costs, but it also supports your local community.
  • Minimalize your consumerism.  Instead of giving to everyone, have a Secret Santa gift exchange.  Add a twist to it with a White Elephant gift exchange and you can have a lot of fun trying to come up with the best gift in the exchange.  (Rules)
  • Give to favorite charity for your group.
  • Give handmade gifts.  They are always so appreciated.  From your homemade breads, cookies, or jams to knitted or crocheted items, the list of possibilities are endless.
  • Give gifts of books and magazines to help spread the “green” bug.

Wrapping

  • Çhoose sustainable gift wrap.  Use recycled wrapping paper.  Avoid use metallic or glossy paper that are not so environmentally friendly.
  • Use gift bags.  They are easily reused year after year.
  • Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap.  This can include fabric, handkerchiefs, bandanas, scarves, thin towels, newspaper, and discarded paper items.  Put your gift in a pretty reusable basket.
  • Ribbons are easy to save and reuse.  Cut down used wrapping paper and reuse.
  • Save your holiday cards and use to make gift tags.

Your Holiday Dinner

  • Don’t forget to avoid using disposable products – no paper napkins or plates or glasses.  This is the time to bring out your holiday tableware.  Washing dishes afterwards is a small price to pay to reduce your trash output.
  • Food.  Buy local, free range and organic.  All of these options reduce the impact of your food choices on the environment.  They also have the added benefit of being the healthier choice.
  • Avoiding buying beverages in individual containers will also reduce waste.
  • Don’t forget to compost as much as you can from the holiday leftovers.

These are just a few suggestions out of the many possibilities for minimizing your environmental impact during the holiday season.   We think that employing them will help you minimize the amount of waste from your celebrations and also help to minimize your stress levels.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season from the Ewing Green Team!

Tree of the Month – Christmas Trees

Among the pleasures we enjoy in December is choosing a Christmas tree. The choices are many: the firs (Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir), pines (Scotch, Eastern White), red cedars, and spruce (Colorado Blue, Norway, Concolor). Throughout the United States there are more than 35 different evergreen species grown for the holidays. They are available either cut, in containers, or balled and burlapped.

If you choose to purchase a cut tree, try to prevent the trunk from being exposed to the air for more than three to six hours; it should be put into a container with water as soon as possible. Next, trim off the lowest branches which might interfere with the tree’s staying upright in a stand, and then remove ragged branch tips or unattractive branches. Saw off an inch of the trunk so the tree can absorb water freely, and fasten it to its stand, which should contain plenty of water. The water, especially at first, should be replenished often.

Artificial Christmas trees are often made of PVC, a dangerous chemical, are not biodegradable, and do not have the wonderful fragrance of a real tree. However, they may be used for many years and are maintenance free.

A live tree, while somewhat more labor intensive to care for, may also be planted in your yard after its holiday use, and enjoyed for years to come. You must do some planning before you take the tree home but it is well worth while.

  1. Determine what spot on your property affords the correct exposure (full sun) and room. Check a good source or the internet to determine how much space your particular species of tree will require when mature.
  2. Dig the hole NOW before the ground freezes. Digging a frozen hole is no fun. Make the hole approximately 2 times the width of what you expect the container or root ball will be. This is important; and do not dig the hole any deeper than the height of the container or root ball. Fill the hole with leaves or mulch as insulation, and cover the hole and the pile of soil with a tarp and more leaves or mulch to avoid freezing. Throw away whatever sod was dug up as you do not want it included in the backfill.

Your live tree should be indoors as briefly as possible; place it at first (in a waterproof tub or container) in a garage or porch to allow it to acclimate to warmer temperatures. You can water it lightly and frequently, or place ice cubes over the root ball to keep the moisture levels up. Spraying the tree with an antidessicant such as Wiltproof will help control moisture loss through the needles.

When the tree is ready for planting, roll it into the hole and orient it so that its best side faces your house or the street. If the hole is too deep, add soil into the bottom and compact it until it is the right depth. Remove as much of the burlap around the root ball as possible; if it is in a container, remove the container. If it is in a wire basket, cut off as much of the basket as you can. Then, begin to backfill with the soil you set aside. Water it thoroughly and slowly as you fill the hole; this will push out air pockets and saturate the sides of the hole as well as the back fill.

It is not necessary to stake or guy the tree. Cover the area – to the drip-line- with 2-3” of double-shredded, hardwood bark mulch, keeping the mulch 2” away from the trunk. Water your Christmas tree every day for a week, twice the second week, and then once a week until the ground freezes and your hose becomes useless.

By Ann Farnham, LLA
December 2014

Best Wishes For The Holidays From Your Ewing Environmental Commission!