15 December 2010Families planning an eco-friendly Christmas should opt for real Christmas trees, draped with LED lights, say the country's Christmas tree growers. More Kiwis are this year once again buying real trees after a marked swing to fake trees in the 1990s. There's also more interest in tub-grown trees.
"The smell of fresh pine is hard to beat and the emergence of Christmas tree farms is making the selection and buying of a tree a pleasant pre-Christmas ritual for many families," says Glen Mackie of the Forest Owners Association.
If there's a secret to keeping a Christmas tree looking great throughout the festive season, Mr Mackie says it's water. If newly cut or tub-grown trees are provided with 2-4 litres of water a day, they will look great for several weeks and their needles will stay on the tree – not on the living room floor.
"Always try and buy a freshly cut tree and take it straight home – don't leave it in the hot car while you go shopping. If it is not freshly cut, saw about 2 centimetres off the base of the trunk before putting it in water. Then never let it go dry."
As for adding a Disprin to the water to prolong the life of the tree, Mr Mackie says he's yet to see any evidence supporting that or other popular additives like beer, honey or gin.
"Water, he says, is the one thing that definitely works. Plus a little bleach to keep the water from going off."
Real trees are the eco-friendly option, Mr Mackie adds. They are grown in New Zealand by specialist tree nurseries and are normally harvested at 3-years of age, before being replaced the following winter with new seedlings.
Most are radiata pines – the same species that makes up most of the country's plantation forests – though macrocarpa and other species are also grown. Some are special varieties of these species, selected to have the desired conical shape of a classic Christmas tree. In their second year the trees are normally trimmed and topped to ensure dense foliage.
"Real Christmas trees have a low carbon footprint – like plantation forests they store carbon when they are growing and release it when they decompose or are used for fuel," Mr Mackie says.
"Fake trees are made overseas from metals and petrochemicals. And while they are often bought in the hope they will last forever, in fact many fail to withstand the rigours of storage and end up in the landfill after two or three years."
To be really environmentally friendly, Mr Mackie advises families to use LEDs rather than incandescent bulbs to light their tree – they use 90 per cent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer.
Once the festive season is over, he says the best option is to put the tree through a mulcher, so its nutrients can be recycled. A free mulching service is provided by some Christmas tree farms. Some councils and garden waste disposal services also provide a pick-up and or mulching service for a modest fee.