How to make eco-Santa merry

15 December 2010

Families 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.


Winners of the NZ Wood Timber Design Awards 2010

A visitors’ centre at Waitomo Caves took out three of the top prizes at the NZ Wood Timber Design Awards announced tonight.


Winning both the Commercial Architecture and Commercial Engineering Excellence Awards, the centre also picked up a Clever Solutions award.


Designed and built by a consortium of Dunning Thornton Consultants, Architecture Workshop, Hunters and Hawkins Construction, the judges said the building was a “highly-engineered answer to functional needs, which has been achieved in a structure which is as much high-performance as it is delicate”.


Another of the main prizes went to the new Supreme Court Building in Wellington designed by Warren and Mahoney.


Winning the Interior Fit-out Award, the judges commended the “mesmerising interior, demonstrating the craft of modern digital technology, fabrication and biomimetic design”.


Using silver beech, the courtroom’s panelling mimics the spiral diamond patterns of the native kauri cone.


Another highly commended entry was the “Folding Whare”, a simple, collapsible one room emergency shelter for use in disaster recovery designed by Callum Dowie in his final year at Unitec’s architectural school.


This year’s People’s Choice Award – decided by popular on-line vote–  was won by Ambienti Architects for their Papamoa (Tauranga) based sales pavilion and community centre.


The Scott’s Landing beach residence by Stephenson and Turner Architects won the Residential Architectural Excellence Award for their design of a beach house at Mahurangi Harbour, north of Auckland.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s multi-purpose building in Wallaceville, Wellington, also designed by Stephenson and Turner Architects, won the Sustainability Award for the architects’ “elegant but ambitious project to create a five green star rating using a refined architectural palette”.


Birkenhead’s library and civic centre designed by Archoffice won the Cladding Building Envelope Award for its “sculptural timber façade”.


The awards were announced at a function at Te Papa, Wellington, on Monday night.


Sponsors included NZ Wood, Carter Holt Harvey Woodproducts, Timberbond, Kop-Coat and the Timber Design Society.


The awards were judged by structural engineer Ross Davison, builder David Brown and architect Elvon Young.


(Details of all winners attached.)



For further information, contact:


Brian Langham

NZ Wood


021 784 626

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