christmas tree

Our Trip To The Christmas Tree Farm

By Amy Miller

We went to buy our Christmas tree last weekend. We couldn’t remember where that one cut- your-own place was, we weren’t sure if that other cut-your-own place was still in business and anyway, we really didn’t have much time for a sentimental ritual in between Benjamin’s basketball game and our friends’ progressive dinner.

So we settled on a 20-mile drive to get to the place two miles from our house. At Riverside Farms, you can walk through rows of trees arranged by size; pick your own shape and pay. Then a strong young man will tie the tree on your car for you.

At mile 8, though, as we were cruising Lebanon Road, we passed an irresistibly homemade sign – “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree.” So we took a U-y and the country road to the dirt drive to the weathered older gentleman sitting in his pick-up. Yes, he had rope and yes, we could use the saw in the nearby bucket. Head down there and chop, he pointed.

Benjamin wanted big. Lane is getting older (as in teenager) and doesn’t really care anymore. “Whatever,” she said, “let’s go, I’m cold.” We picked a biggish, wide-ish tree and sorta kinda tied it on.

At home, we found our white strand was dead and every third bulb on the colored ones was out. We did the unthinkable – we mixed little colored lights that blink with big colored lights that don’t. And it worked. Our 2011 tree was up.

I would have been just as happy to lace lights around a Charlie Brown tree from our backwoods, but my family will have none of it.

As it happens, 21 percent of us get real trees, and 98 percent of those are from tree farms. Sixteen percent of us “real Christmas Tree consumers” cut our own. And according to the University of Illinois, citing the US Census of Agriculture and the National Christmas Tree Association, about 48 percent of us had fake trees and 32 percent had none.

All told, about 30 to 35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. yearly. More than 90 percent of these are recycled and two seedlings are planted for every tree sold. One acre typically holds 2,000 trees and provides the oxygen18 people need in one day.

When I’m buying my tree I think of none of this, though. I think about how I love to sit by a fire in a room lighted only by the Christmas tree.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire…

By Lina Younes

This past weekend my children decided to set up the Christmas tree.  At the end of the decorating event, they asked that we light up the chimney to sit back, have hot cocoa and roast marshmallows. Even though the evening was not that cold, we willingly complied because we wanted to share this special family moment around the open fire as the song goes.

While fireplaces may conjure fond memories of winters past, the fact is that you shouldn’t use just any type of wood or paper in a fireplace or wood-burning appliance. The key is to burn the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance. If you use the wrong type of wood and an unsafe appliance, the burning process may generate too much smoke with the wrong mix of gases and fine particles that may lead to serious health effects.

EPA has a partnership program, BurnWise, designed to create awareness on the proper materials and tools to protect your health, home and environment. It provides useful tips and advice in the selection of wood burning stoves and EPA Certified appliances. In addition to outreach materials, the website also has useful information on certain communities that have local ordinances to reduce wood smoke.

The proper use of the wood and these fuel-burning appliances will go a long way to protect your family and even prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for weekly tips on our BurnWise program. Send us your comments. We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Learning from Experience—Planting a Live Christmas Tree

During the month of December, families around the world celebrate many traditions—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, to name a few. In my home, we celebrate Christmas. For me, one of the things that sets me in the mood for the holidays is the fresh scent of live pine trees. Several years ago, I wanted to do something for the environment by purchasing a live Christmas tree to plant after the holidays. Didn’t think much of it in advance. Just bought a nice size tree with the burlapped root ball and took it home. Placed the tree in a corner not far from the fireplace. Kept it decorated well after the holidays since I was in no hurry to plant it. As it was starting to warm up, planted it in the front yard. Well, those of you who know more about trees than I probably can anticipate the outcome. That tree did not survive my care, unfortunately. Little did I know at the time that I was doing everything wrong.

First of all, a live tree should not stay in your warm living room for more than ten days. After it has served its purpose as a Christmas tree, you should move the tree to a cool area like your garage or shed in preparation for planting. Since you want to plant it as soon as possible, it is advised to plan ahead. You might want to dig the hole in your yard even before the ground freezes so that you will be able to expedite the planting process at the right time.

I must note that after my first experience, I did some research and was determined to have a live Christmas tree again. The second time I followed correct procedures. The outcome—a pine tree that has been living for over eight years in my back yard and which we have decorated during subsequent holidays. Might not be the most beautiful tree, but it definitely has a special value for our family.

So here are some tips for those who wish to give a gift back to nature during the holiday season. There are many ways to be green during the festivities. Which traditions do you celebrate in your family?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.