Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions, and we’re looking forward to picking out a beautiful North Carolina-grown Fir next weekend. But our eager anticipation was mixed with concern: Is getting a real vs fake tree better for the environment?
The answer surprised us: If you want to have an eco-friendly, green Christmas: Keep It Real!
People turn to fake plastic trees for a number of reasons, including cost, convenience and concerns over the environmental impact of cutting down a new tree each year. But experts insist that artificial trees do more damage to the environment: They’re manufactured with metal and PVC (a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived plastic); are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable; and around 85% are imported from China, which increases their overall carbon footprint.
Real Christmas trees (of which 33 million are sold in the U.S. each year), on the other hand, are a renewable resource with a 93% “treecycling” rate; absorb approximately a ton of CO2 PER TREE over the course of their lifetime (wow!); produce enough oxygen per acre for 18 people a day; and are sustainable, with 1-3 seedlings planted for each tree harvested. Not to mention the fact that the industry employs over 100,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Of course, if you’re truly dedicated to going green (and your local climate will allow it), the most eco-friendly option is a living, potted tree, which can be brought indoors for around 10 days, then planted outside. With Christmas trees, it truly is better to keep it real! –Bret Love
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The season for all things pumpkin has arrived, and many of us in America will make (or at least eat ) a pumpkin pie this autumn. But what to do with all the leftover pumpkin after Halloween and Thanksgiving have passed? Did you know that pumpkin can be used to make all-natural beauty products your skin will love just as much as your stomach? For about the same price as a commercial bottle of body scrub (around $10), you can make an effective, deliciously scented natural scrub that has no harmful parabens or preservatives in about 45 minutes. In addition to making a great personal beauty product, jarred pumpkin body scrub decorated with a ribbon and personalized tag also makes a great homemade holiday present.
INGREDIENTS: 1 small pumpkin • 1 cup brown sugar • ¼ cup organic coconut oil (other oils can be used, but coconut oil is thicker than others at room temperature) • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spices (I combined cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger)
DIRECTIONS: Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds (but save them to roast!). • Roast pumpkin for 30 minutes or until tender. Canned pumpkin puree can also be used, but I prefer fresh. • Scoop the pumpkin puree into a bowl and add the sugar, oil and spices. • Mix well and jar. You now have a great exfoliant that smells just like pumpkin pie! –Holly Young
Home gardening is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more and more about the dangers of genetically modified foods. But did you know that many commercial fertilizers are made from ammonia, which is extracted from natural gas, or that the extraction process releases carbon dioxide? Even worse, nitrates in these fertilizers can harm humans and marine mammals by seeping into groundwater, and ultimately deplete the soil’s nutrients.
Fortunately, most of us have the basic ingredients needed to make homemade fertilizer sitting around the house, including dried coffee grounds and unused vegetable matter, which can be used to create compost. But one of the best tricks for all-natural homemade fertilizer is to use ground up egg shells, which consist primarily of calcium carbonate (or, in fertilizer terms, lime). In addition to the calcium carbonate, egg shells also contain small amounts of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and other nutrients.
To use them, simply save your egg shells by storing them in a pot in a dry place such as the oven. Once they have dried out, blend the shells into a powder, which can then be sprinkled on your lawn, garden or potted plants. If your plants are frequented by snails, jagged shell pieces can be scattered in a border around your plants to ward off hungry snails. Soon, you won’t just be making your garden grow, you’ll be making it greener as well! –Holly Young
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Love to garden, but don’t feel like you have enough space? Here are some simple steps for apartment gardening that can help turn even small-scale deck or patio garden into a wildlife haven beneficial to local birds, butterflies and other creatures.
• PROVIDE FOOD- A bird feeder is a great way to attract birds and provide them with food. If you live in an apartment complex with limited deck space, there are bird feeders specially designed for hanging off balconies. There are also special hooks you can use to mount conventional feeders to your deck. Hanging feeders filled with nectar are also a great way to attract hummingbirds.
• PROVIDE WATER- Another integral part of your backyard haven is providing the wildlife with water. Birdbaths and watering containers are a great way to replenish our feathered friends and keep them cool in the summer heat. For homes with limited spaces, you can mount birdbaths to your balcony or deck with special hooks. You also may consider hanging a waterer from a mounted light fixture, ledge or overhang.
• PROVIDE SHELTER- Container gardening is a great way to provide your wildlife visitors with shade and protection. Potted trees and shrubs will provide them with shade and cover. Fragrant flowers and herbs will also help attract butterflies and beneficial bugs. In addition to any potted flowers you have, consider choosing some native plants, which are great for local wildlife and will grow well in your environment. Ensure all pots have a hole in the bottom to encourage good drainage. –Holly Young
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