Thursday, December 20, 2012

Trees, environment and drooping?

We got an eamil from Char Miller of Pomona College, sharing his recent article outlining the environmental impact of plastic tree-shaped decorations, vs farm-grown Real Christmas Trees.

Dear colleagues - thought you and your colleagues would enjoy this column - please share and post!

Char Miller, Director
Environmental Analysis Program

W. M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis

Pomona College

Thanks for sharing Char.

It’s yet another example of how I feel that the “debate” about environmental impacts of growing, displaying and recycling a Real Christmas Tree vs. buying and eventually throwing away a plastic tree-shaped decoration is no longer even a debate.  It’s just a myth the plastic peddlers keep desperately trying to confuse people with.  It’s sad to see their duplicity and disingenuousness in the product promo for a plastic tree-shaped decoration including the phrase “Save a tree!” …printed on the product’s cardboard box.

I would disagree however with Mr. Lowenstein’s assertion that buying a tree from a farm labeled organic is better for the environment.  But overall, it’s another environmental group that supports Christmas tree farms and their sustainable, recyclable crop.

Here's a feel-good story from the Trees for Troops program.  It's a video produced and shared by American soldiers stationed in Kuwait receiving a donated Christmas tree from their home state of Indiana!

This was an interesting question about a tree "changing shape":

From: trixneron
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:40 PM
To: NCTA-Rick Dungey
Subject: Droopy Christmas Tree
I have never had this happen to me before, my Christmas tree is droopy.  The water tub is full and has been for days, we trimmed the bottom and  drilled a hole in the tree before we put it up but everyday the bottom branches are getting closer and closer to the floor.  It's not dry or brittle at all, the leaves are soft and pliable, all in all it seems healthy.  Have you ever heard of this, and is there anything I can do to help perk it up?

As the plant tissue warms and the plant comes out of dormancy and it takes up moisture, the tissue will return to its "summer-like" condition. Meaning, the plant tissue will naturally become more pliable, bendable and flexible.  I don’t think there's anything wrong with your tree at all, the branches are returning to their natural position.  If you don't like that look, you can trim them from the tree, avoid hanging anything heavy on them which increases the bend, but no...there's not really anything you can do to cause them to point upright.

Finally, a couple photos to share.  First, you've all heard the phrase "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" from a popular Christmas carol.  But have you ever seen one at harvest?  This is what they look like before they "dance around" a roasting pan.

And here's my 2012 fresh, farm-grown Christmas Tree!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

local recycling

Often, we are asked, “How does NCTA promote Christmas tree recycling programs?”  In fact, tomorrow I’m on a webinar panel for Waste Age magazine talking about Christmas tree recycling programs.  As I’m sure most readers of this blog are aware, after Christmas, Real Trees can be recycled in a number of ways, such as becoming mulch for gardens and trails, habitats for fish or barriers to reduce shoreline erosion.

But nowadays, almost all Real Trees are recycled either in community programs or in someone’s garden or yard.  Recycling programs are done on a very local level.  Local tree recycling programs can be easily found through the Internet and in local news media.  We don’t have a resource specific to finding your local tree recycling program.

For example, where I live in St. Louis city, I received the following email from the city recycling program through my neighborhood association E-newsletter:

From: Recy, Cle []
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 10:21 AM
Subject: City of St. Louis Recycling Program Blue Bin News December 2012

Christmas Tree Recycling in St. Louis

The City will be offering Christmas tree recycling from December 27, 2012 until January 13, 2013 at the following loca­tions:

FOREST PARK, Lower Muny Opera parking lot.

O’FALLON PARK, West Florissant and Holly, picnic ground #4.

CARONDELET PARK, Grand and Holly Hills, area between gate and recycling containers.

These trees will be recycled into mulch, which is then available for use by City residents. Please keep in mind the following upon disposal: Remove all ornaments, tinsel, lights, and tree stand. Do not put the tree in a plastic bag or cover it. Wreaths and pine roping are not accepted at these sites. A City of St. Louis Refuse Division--Recycling Program Publication Reader Submissions Welcomed!


Now, that tells me all I need to know about how to recycle my tree after Christmas.  It probably tells you nothing if you don’t live in St. Louis.  But I bet a similar piece of information about recycling trees where you live can be found just as easily.  Whether through E-communications or a simple online search.


Peter Mason emailed NCTA to share the story about a cool project in the Seattle area.  Here is his note:


I volunteer for a community based environmental restoration group in Seattle, Friends of Madrona Woods. This year we are running a small fundraiser selling living trees to community members, who then donate them back to be planted in our public urban greenbelt after the holidays.

For more info on Madrona Woods restoration (where I volunteer) see:


Sounds like a cool program, thanks for sharing Peter.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thanks and Scents

We received this very kind message along with this photo from a soldier stationed in Afghanistan.  You gotta check this out and I challenge you to not be moved by it.

We received an interesting email from a tree farm in South Carolina responding to our weekly request to farms and lots to let us know how tree sales are going.
“Because of new customers, I had to order additional stands today from our supplier. The salesperson stated that this is happening all over the country. Additional orders are coming in to cover new customers who have not had a real tree in years and need a stand.” 

Well, that’s certainly a good sign.  And it also gives me a chance to reiterate the importance of having a good tree stand.  I see a lot of bad stands in stores, but there are also many good ones.  What makes a good one?  Water holding capacity (at LEAST 1 gallon for a typical 6 foot tall tree) and stability are the two most important qualities.  After that, choose a style you prefer.  Some prefer a center pin style where the lot or farm will drill a hole in the center of your tree’s trunk (this does NOT affect its ability to absorb water).  Some prefer the 4-bolt style.  There are also “claw” style and 2-piece bowl and stand style.

Here’s a question we get sometimes about a strange phenomenon, with my reply in Blue.
-----Original Message-----
From: Renee
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2012 9:47 PM
To: NCTA-Rick Dungey
Subject: Have a really bad odor

This is the first year I have had a Christmas tree smell really bad. It is making my whole home smell. I'm worried my kids are going to get sick from it. I wanted to know if it will go away?  Let me know if you can give me any tips.

Hello Renee.
There could be a number of things going on.  Commonly, a source of a bad smell is something people put in the water in the stand.   However, you didn’t mention that so I have to assume that’s not the case in your situation.  It is possible that the tree was harvested, shipped and stored in a humid, moist condition and that can be causing the bad smell.

While many species are described as having varying scents, only one species is commonly described as having a “bad” scent and that is the White Spruce.
If your tree is not that species, then the added moisture in the plant tissue from the water the tree is absorbing will boost its natural scent.  But sense of smell is very subjective and trees are each genetically unique. Try to snap or crush a few needles on the interior/back and that should release some aroma most would describe as "pine-ey" or "Christmas tree smell".

I'd need more information to give you more guidance than that.

And speaking of Christmas tree scent, here’s a nice segue.  Sara Altshul recently posted an article on about scientific evidence showing the smell of a Christmas tree is not only emotionally good for you, but also physically good for you.  “Pine and other evergreen trees, as it turns out, are loaded with compounds that have a variety of positive effects on the human body,” states Altshul.  Check out the article.  Get a fresh, farm-grown Christmas tree and be healthy. 
Yet another thing you can’t get from a plastic, tree-shaped decoration posing as a Christmas tree.  Just sayin'...