Eye on the Environment
The greenest tree and how to recycle yours
By David Goldstein 12/26/2013
Each year, between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1, waste generation rises nationwide by about 1 million tons per week, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). For example, Americans discard about 38,000 miles of ribbon each year at this time — more than enough to tie a bow around our planet.
Nevertheless, with a little knowledge and effort, it is possible to reduce the amount of material you set out at the curb, save resources and prevent “the Grinch who stole landfill space” from marring your festivities.
Plastic or wood? Who was greener?
Who had bragging rights to the greener tree this Christmas? Those who bought cut trees or those who reused a plastic tree?
The California Christmas Tree Association website features a trivia contest, making environmental claims. The website asks how long it takes to grow a new Christmas tree (four to 12 years), and then how long it takes to make the petroleum from which an artificial tree is manufactured (10 million years). “Which tree provides year-round habitat for insects, birds and mammals?” the website asks, raising the prospect of a plastic tree forest, perhaps populated by plastic Halloween spiders and plush teddy bears. The website proudly points out the Christmas tree industry’s practice of planting at least one new tree for each tree harvested.
Additionally, trees sequester carbon, locking a greenhouse gas into their cell structure and producing oxygen. Promotional material at the Mupu Tree Farm on Ojai Road pointed out that the Oregon farmer growing its inventory cut use of pesticides by more than 60 percent and is experimenting with compost to replace fertilizer.
Of course, an even greener alternative is a reusable tree. Nurseries sell a variety of suitable trees in pots, and an online company offering tree rentals plans to expand into Ventura County next year. It claims nearly a 100 percent reuse rate for the trees it collects, punning on its website, “Trees that do not make the cut for reuse … are put out to pasture” (planted).
Check your waste hauler’s newsletter or on-ine information to find out if your community allows whole trees to be set out at the curb on specified days. In Port Hueneme, for example, whole trees can be placed next to trash carts for free collection between Jan. 6 and 10. In unincorporated areas served by E.J. Harrison, the free pickup dates are Dec. 26 to Jan. 8. In some areas after deadlines, you may be charged $12 per tree collected at curbside.
Of course, the most efficient way to handle your tree is to cut it into sections less than four feet long and place these into your yard waste cart for curbside collection on your regularly scheduled collection day. Before recycling your Christmas tree, remove ornaments, tinsel, stands, and anything else people would not want in their mulch.
For businesses and multifamily buildings without onsite collection points, homes without refuse service, and people who miss their city’s collection time, there are free drop-off sites. In Oxnard, both Agromin’s headquarters (201 Kinetic Drive) and Agromin’s compost site (6859 Arnold Road) are accepting free drop-off of trees until Jan. 24. (Call 485-9200 for more information.) Also, Agromin’s mulch site at the Simi Valley Landfill, 2801 Madera Road, is accepting Christmas trees free of charge until Jan. 24 (579-7267).
Additionally, Peach Hill Soils in Moorpark offers free tree drop-off and a free bag of mulch (bring your own container) during the three Saturdays following Christmas — Dec. 28, Jan. 4 and 11 — from 8 a.m. to noon. It has a small sign on the 118, so call for directions (529-6164) or look for a truck with the Peach Hill logo.
In Ventura, Gold Coast Recycling, 5275 Colt St. (642-9236), will accept up to two Christmas trees per vehicle without charge and has not yet set a deadline.
Once again, the award for the greenest Christmas tree goes to the San Buenaventura Mission, for its second year of beautifully illuminating two 120-foot Norfolk Pines with strings of light-emitting diodes, LEDs. These new lights use only a fraction of the energy consumed by the old system, and switching from incandescent to LED also provides a great savings in maintenance.
Manufacturers of LEDs claim the lights will last 25,000 to 50,000 hours, including the time when light emitted diminishes to 70 percent of original brightness but still functions. The mission lights also illuminate green for Saint Patrick’s Day, red for Valentine’s Day and pastel colors for Easter. Even if the diocese operates the diodes 500 hours per year, the lights installed last year will outlive nearly everyone looking at them this year. Mission accomplished!
Eye on the Environment is a service of the Ventura County Public Works Agency.