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Don't Feel Bad About Getting An Xmas Tree


Green Lifestyle  (tags: environment, design, eco-friendly, conservation, society, green, CO2emissions, sustainable, Sustainabililty, protection )

JL
- 644 days ago - motherjones.com
USDA grant to examine how North Carolina Christmas tree farms might mitigate climate change.Their results, taken from 27 sites across nine farms and published in a paper in November, show that certain techniques can allow the tree plots to act like natur



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JL A. (275)
Monday December 24, 2012, 12:15 pm


Mother Jones
Don't Feel Bad About Getting an Xmas Tree
Turns out tree farms are good for the planet.

By Sydney Brownstone | Wed Dec. 12, 2012 3:03 AM PST

Adam Langley remembers starting his high school summer days at 5 a.m. to work on Harry Yates' Christmas tree farm. In a fertile, North Carolinian corner of southern Appalachia, he and his friends would pack into a decrepit truck and roll up remote mountainsides armed with clippers, shears, and knee guards. At the top, in a plot where Yates specialized in Fraser fir, Langley and his crew spent their formative years pruning trees destined for hundreds of living rooms across the country that winter.

Don't Feel Bad About Getting an Xmas Tree [1]
Should I Buy a Fake Christmas Tree or a Real One? [2]
The Real War on Christmas: Climate Change [3]

Langley, now an ecologist and professor at Villanova University, has worked over the past four years with his wife and fellow professor Samantha Chapman through a USDA grant [4] to examine how North Carolina Christmas tree farms might mitigate climate change. Their results, taken from 27 sites across nine farms and published in a paper in November [5], show that certain techniques can allow the tree plots to act like natural sponges for atmospheric carbon. The potential, they say, lies in the dirt.

Tree farm soil, Chapman says, can absorb 10 times as much carbon as the wood itself. Cutting down on herbicide use and providing groundcover between rows of firs can double that concentration of carbon in the soil. The researchers' goal is to see if carbon sequestration could potentially be profitable for struggling Christmas tree farmers who want to sell offsets, or amounts of carbon dioxide emissions avoided. If legislation is passed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, these kinds of offsets could be sold to polluters who want to make up for their emissions elsewhere.

"The carbon builds up in the soil over time," Chapman told me over the phone. "Some is sugar that's eaten quickly, and some of it sticks around for thousands of years. And that's the kind of soil we're interested in capturing."
xmas tree
Chapman collecting soil samples at Yates' Christmas tree farm. Courtesy of Samantha Chapman

In September, Langley presented the team's findings to a conference of North Carolina Christmas tree growers. "They were very receptive," he said. "Farmers are often operating on a very thin margin. What they can do to increase carbon sequestration is in line with what they could do to improve the long term profitability of their farm."

It was only a few decades ago Christmas tree farming, as opposed to harvesting naturally-occurring forests, emerged as a relatively new and promising industry. Harry Yates, Langley's former employer who owns 200 acres of Fraser firs in Boone, North Carolina, took up the trade in 1979 when farming was beginning to boom. But the industry today is facing a significant challenge from plastic imports. "The fake trees from China, as we call them, are a major competitor," Yates told me in a gruff drawl.

Doug Hundley, an integrated pest management technician who's worked with North Carolina growers like Yates to better environmental practices for over 20 years, estimates that growers could increase tree sales by upwards of 30 percent if it weren't for the fake imports. And while natural tree sales nationwide have decreased by 6 percent over the last half-century, fake tree sales have skyrocketed [6]. "I think that real trees are not in nearly the number of households that they could be," Hundley said.

Yates and Hundley, both of whom were in the audience during Langley's presentation, say that they're all for exploring the carbon sequestration capability of their trees, but that a profitable carbon market still seems a long way off. "We were making this green production system for plenty of other reasons besides that," Hundley says. "If it turns out that it's benefiting climate change then that's great too."

In the meantime, Langley and Chapman continue to work with a North Carolina extension agent to hammer out the mechanisms behind carbon sequestration on Christmas tree farms. Existing market or not, they're hopeful. "Especially with the current administration and the fact that extreme climate events have happened recently," Chapman says. "I think the impetus to do something is closer now."
Source URL: http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/12/christmas-trees-seeking-carbon-markets

Links:
[1] http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/12/christmas-trees-seeking-carbon-markets
[2] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/12/greenest-christmas-trees-real-fake
[3] http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/12/real-war-christmas-climate-change
[4] http://www.reeis.usda.gov/web/crisprojectpages/0214036-christmas-trees-and-soil-carbon-storage-maximizing-ecosystem-management-and-sustainability-in-a-future-carbon-economy.html
[5] https://www.soils.org/publications/sssaj/abstracts/76/6/2221?access=0&view=article
[6] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/12/what-i-learned-green-christmas-trees-real-fake
 

Michael Kirkby (85)
Monday December 24, 2012, 3:34 pm
Very interesting article. Damned Chinese plastics.
 

JL A. (275)
Monday December 24, 2012, 3:46 pm
A very promising approach for sure Michael--I wonder what other crops/trees could show similar benefits? You cannot currently send a star to Michael because you have done so within the last week.
 

John B. (215)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:18 pm
Thanks J.L. for the interesting post. Read and noted
 

Roseann D. (178)
Monday December 24, 2012, 7:51 pm
I went for a horseback ride today and enjoyed live Christmas trees and others in the wilderness instead. ;-d The best Christmas trees ever!
 

JL A. (275)
Monday December 24, 2012, 8:31 pm
You are welcome John. You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week.
Sounds marvelous Roseann! You cannot currently send a star to Roseann because you have done so within the last week.
 

jo M. (3)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 12:31 am
Merry Christmas! (no matter what kind of tree you have, or don't have)
 

Danuta Watola (1204)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 4:02 am
noted
 

Gwynethrose F. (12)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 8:31 am
Noted, and thank you for the article!
 

JL A. (275)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 8:33 am
You are welcome Gwynethrose
 

Dave C. (214)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 10:10 am
sounds good....
 

Christeen Anderson (500)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 12:23 pm
This year I had a perfect Charlie Brown Christmas tree and it was fabulous Thank you.
 

Faye Swan (23)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:10 pm
Noted - thank you! I love having a tree but probably wouldn't if it wasn't for family.
 

Kathleen B. (37)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 1:46 pm
No tree this year, just a little Creche.
 

JL A. (275)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 3:06 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week.
You are welcome Christeen. You cannot currently send a star to Christeen because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Faye because you have done so within the last week.
 

Natalie V. (27)
Tuesday December 25, 2012, 3:24 pm
noted
 

Phillip I. (67)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 6:47 am
I am from "christmas tree country". The industry poisons the land, surface water and ground water. They lie and hush-up news items to keep the public from knowing how irresponsibly they handle the chemicals they use and how dangerous they are. DEATH to the christmas tree industry.
 

Bruno Moreira (61)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 7:05 am
noted thanks
 

JL A. (275)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 8:47 am
Thank you Phillip for letting us know why the different practices described in this article are so very important by letting us know what the usual status quo has been
You are welcome Bruno.
 

Lindsay Kemp (1)
Wednesday December 26, 2012, 10:08 am
Good news! I love real trees!
 

Melania Padilla (179)
Sunday December 30, 2012, 6:26 pm
Thank you for posting.... Here, in Nicaragua, we donīt use real trees, only artificial ones. When it comes to the environment this is the best option, my christmas tree has now 10 years and it looks like new!!
 

JL A. (275)
Sunday December 30, 2012, 8:42 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Melania because you have done so within the last week.
 
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