Though the color green is associated with Kwanzaa and Christmas, it ain’t always easy being green during the holiday season. The gorgeous light shows, the nearly 30 million trees chopped down each year—even gifts shipped around the world add to our collective carbon footprints. Don’t go all bah, humbug just yet though. John Duvall, a lifelong Long Islander, arborist and author of The Great Spruce, a story of a young boy who saved his favorite tree from being cut down, provided tips on how you can have a holly, jolly and eco-friendly holiday.
Think Outside The Living Room
Decorating a live tree is a family tradition. Instead of completely ditching it, Duvall suggested buying a live tree and keeping it outdoors or decorating an existing tree in your yard. The tree doesn’t have to be evergreen or pine trees, either. “Dogwoods, Japanese maple trees work well,” Duvall said. “Neighbors can enjoy your work. Use LED lights and handmade decorations.” Consider treating wildlife to a happy holiday by using bird-friendly decorations like popcorn, bird seed baked in holiday shapes and peanut butter-covered pine cones as decorations. Bonus: you can now bird watch as you scrub the counter in preparation for your mother-in-law’s arrival.
Keep it Local
For those who are attached to having a live tree inside the home, ensure it’s local, sustainably grown and organic. “Trees that travel a long distance have a larger carbon footprint than those locally grown.” Duvall recommended finding a tree grown in the Northeast region. Organically grown trees do not contribute the pesticide, herbicide accumulation that impacts our water tables. Biophilia Organic Farm in Jamesport has certified organic trees like white pine, white spruce, balsam fir and Douglas fir.
Consider building a gift like a birdhouse or a treehouse with local, sustainable woods, rather than gifting a toy or sweater that will be yesterday’s news in a couple months. “[These] will bring joy year round…[and] are projects that can engage the whole family.” Another tip: add Mother Earth to your gift list. Duvall said the National Forest has a tree planning program and recommended getting more options from The PEW Charitable Trust.
Buy a Farm
Sort of. Gifting people Community Supported Agriculture makes them a member of a farm and when fresh fruits and veggies are harvested, they’ll get first dibs. It reduces their carbon footprints and supports efforts of local farmers. “It’s a great way to reintroduce people to local goodness.” And there’s plenty of that on the Island.
Long Island has a long history of farm culture that’s alive and well, particularly out East. Duvall recommended grabbing produce and ingredients from farms like Golden Earthworm, Garden of Eve and Quail Hill Farm. “By seeking out these sources for your holiday meals, you’ll have a…more sustainable feast.” Consider picking up a bottle of local vino during the drive home.