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Christmas A to Z

Learn interesting, unusual, unique and useful facts and tips about Christmas and the winter holiday season, in America and around the world.

Have a “Green” Christmas (How to Save Money & Energy During the Holidays)

Trees

Elsewhere we’ve talked about how to keep a traditional Christmas tree healthy and green by keeping it watered.

Now we’d like to talk about how to keep a Christmas tree healthy and green by keeping it watered – and ready to plant after Christmas. That’s right. Consider a “living” Christmas tree.

Once you’ve decided to make that choice (hopefully sometime in the fall, particularly in the northern part of the country) you need to make some advance preparations.

Decide on the size of tree you want to get. Think about getting a somewhat smaller (4-6 feet high) in a container. Getting one without the container poses balance and stability problems. Check with the nursery to see what they advise about planting the tree once Christmas is over. How big a hole will you need, what kind of fertilizer works best for your tree, what to do about watering it if it’s below freezing – that kind of thing.

The nursery folks may tell you to keep the tree in its container and wait until the frost goes out of the ground. In that case, ask how you protect the tree until then. Should it go in a garage or on a sheltered porch or other area out of the wind. Does it need a protective burlap wrap? Wind dries out the needles of most evergreens and leaves the tree stressed.

Once you get your living tree check it for any critters or bugs that may be using it for a residence. Then, bring it into the house and start decorating, keeping it moist and away from sources of heat. On Twelfth Night or whenever you would normally take your tree down follow the directions given you by the nursery. If you have the room in your yard for multiple trees this could be the start of a great family tradition.

Lights

Camera, action – no, wrong note. Although, it is a great idea to check your movie camera to make sure your batteries are charged and your media has enough room to record some terrific Holiday events.

No, the lights we’re talking about for our green Christmas are the new LED lights. We know, your old family lights that might have been on grandma’s tree are a family tradition—but it’s time to retire them from tree duty and let them light up another part of the house, perhaps a window frame or draped throughout a large plant. Maybe, if they’re as big, bright and colorful as the ones at our house, don’t even light them but just let them become their own form of artwork.

When they first went on the market the LEDs were that sort of industrial cold bluish white that looked pretty awful. That’s changed over the past couple of years – as has the price, which has come down, resulting in a double saving – using 80-90 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. You can put string after string of LEDs on a tree without worrying about overloading a circuit. They come in many different forms – from twinkle lights to bubble-shaped to stars and other forms.

They’re also available in an increasing number of colors. LEDs are much cooler to operate and thus much better for the tree, whether it’s a cut variety or a living tree, as they don’t contribute to drying the needles the way even the mini lights did. And, of course, they essentially last forever when they’re only used at Christmastime.

Electrical controls

There are many ways to control your Christmas tree lights, whether they’re LEDs or incandescent. They range from simple power strips to power supplies controlled with a foot switch to remotely-controlled wireless power supplies that make turning lights on and off practically automatic (wonder if there’s an iPhone or Android app to go with that…) There are power strips with a built-in light sensor that can turn the lights on at dusk… just remember to turn them off before going to bed for safety reasons. The idea is that the easier it is to control your lights, the more conscious you’ll be of the amount of energy you’re using or, hopefully, saving when you show off your tree.

Recycling

Don’t forget to recycle wrapping paper, bows (for next year, of course), cardboard containers – whatever your local municipality or trash collector will take. If things need to be separated into categories for recycling set up appropriate containers beforehand. Don’t, however, just sweep everything up after all the presents have been opened and toss it into the respective containers. Check first to insure you have the necessary return paperwork/stickers, to/from cards with a note as to who gave what, and that all the parts and instructions have been removed. You certainly don’t want to accidently throw out the saucer from an antique biscuit jar because you didn’t check all of the packaging before disposing of it. That’s said from experience.
Written by Dianne Weller
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