Posts Tagged 'christmas tree'

Eco-City Alexandria News

1) Recycle your christmas tree, if you can bear to take it down yet- just set it out, naked, in your curbside pickup area before 7am, January 17th (this Saturday morning).

2)  The city’s posted a list of their top ten biggest environmental accomplishments of 2008.

3) Tuesday (tomorrow), Alexandria’s Environmental Policy Comission will present their final draft of the first phase of the Environmental Action Plan for the city to the full Council.  Given their hard work and support from a few city council members, I’m betting it will be accepted.   You can find pdfs of the first phase and the EPC’s presentation to the council here.

4) On Wednesday January 28th, the city will hold a Green Building Forum from 7-9 in the Washington Masonic Memorial.  The draft proposal to be presented, along with an agenda and directions, can be found here.  If you haven’t been to the Masonic Memorial yet, it’s worth a trip for the building alone, and the possibility of finding the animatronic George Washington figure in the basement.  Yes, it talks.  Come along, I’m going, and I’m pretty sure EcoCheap is too!

5) OH SNAP Alexandria is having a restaurant week.  This is not necessarily Eco-City news, but shop local, eh?  From the list: Las Tapas is delicious; I was really looking forward to Bilbo Baggins but I found a bug in my appetizer the first time and never went back; Stardust is cute and tasty; and Pat Troy’s is way fun, but more for a big group of friends and $5 pints and sing-a-longs than a three course prix fixe.  Then again, I’ve only had the privilege of the late-night menu at Pat Troy’s, and that’s pretty hearty, so maybe I’m missing something.  And those are the only places I know and feel strongly about, so I have some sampling to do.

LEDs All Over

This year, the Capitol Christmas Tree and all 56 trees representing states and territories in the White House display are lit entirely with LED lights for the first time.

I’ve got my LEDs up, too, and I’ve solved the blue problem by getting a string of multicolored twinkly lights:  instant efficient holiday cheer.  You can see that the blues are still pretty powerful, though.

colorful LEDs

More pictures (and the Restaurant Eve review!) to follow!

Oh, the monthly goal:  I am grateful for my gym membership in this season of delicious foods.

Update: Tree at Last

LEDsFirst, to establish how dire the LED situation was, this photo of my tree in regular incandescent bulbs and my garland in LEDs:

As you can see, they are decidedly, icily blue. I decided to wrap them around my garland, since they actually look nice there, and to reuse my regular lights for the tree this year. Next year, I know to look early and often for yellow-white LEDs. They come in lots of bulb colors, too, and some have happily tacky shapes, like candy canes or whatever, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find some yellow or gold ones.

garlandSo, my LEDs are now at peace. Christmas TreeAnd my tree is decorated! I forget, every year, how excited this makes me, and how much I always want to just stay home all day and sit with my tree. She’s got red and white glass balls and some gold spangly wire I saved last year, and almost everything else on it was given to me by my mother from our family’s tree- a starter kit. And all the presents you see waiting under it are recycled or fair trade or made from organic ingredients- I did pretty well following my own gift guide this year, and ended up saving worlds of time and money, since I found everything I wanted online or at Ten Thousand Villages. Giant actually had a decent selection of fair trade/organic (FTO) coffees- in their specialty foods aisle, not the coffee aisle- and Whole Foods has a passel of FTO hot chocolate. Thus, my shopping is nearly done, too.

Ok, I’m going to go sit with my tree and drink some FTO hot chocolate, and yeah, turn on Christmas music.

Adeste Fid-eel-es

Roll over, solar: some awesome guy in Japan hooked up an aquarium’s electric eel to its Christmas display.

“If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree,” Minawa told Reuters Television.

Thanks to Minawa, one day I’ll be charging my ceel phone with my slippery friend, “Sparky”- if he can be spared from his work on the unimaginably giant tree.

Update: Concerning Light

I keep promising tree pictures, and then letting you down. I’m sorry. A combination of Indiana, two violent colds, and final exams are going to prevent the tree from being fully dressed for at least another week. We did put up the LED lights, though, so I could at least have something besides a naked tree to look at, but that’s actually caused me a dilemma.

The LED light strings are a very bright, blue-white light. It’s very sterile, and completely unlike the cheery yellowy glow from the regular strands of lights I have used on trees and in classier dorm-room decorating all my life. By the by- the BBC has a helpful story on what LED lights are and some of their promising applications, and they mention this problem of cold, blue-based light. Now, I’ve heard the same complaint about CFLs- they don’t give off the quality of light people are used to from regular tungsten bulbs, I hate the way they look, wah. I used to think these people were whiny. It’s the future! Get a decent lampshade! The white translucent shades and the vaguely yellow tinge of my walls make my CFL glow pretty homey, actually. Lighting designers are working on this, slightly reluctantly. Apparently the bigshot design people love incandescent bulbs– their shape, their glow, their iconic status- and hate the way CFLs shine.  But more and more are playing with ways to make the compact fluorescents appealing (hey guys:  try Ikea lampshades and “apartment complex off-white” walls).  Plus, since they don’t get as hot as incandescents, the designers can put materials closer to the bulb and not worry about combustion.  So that’s exciting for them, right?  Moving into a brave new well-lit world?  Anyway, LEDs are supposed to solve all this because their light comes in lots of colors, depending on the chemicals used (see the BBC article).  My problem now is, they use blue for almost everything, including “white”, and I hate the way they look.  Wah!

I like my gold and red tree decorations, and the old lights made it look so nice.  The LEDs will make it look awful.  Granted, they’d look great with silver ornaments, and blue decorations (Hanukkah people, LEDs are perfect for you!).  And if you mix lots of colors on your tree, then LEDs work fine.  All the stuff I have is red and gold, though.  I don’t want to buy a new set of ornaments just to make my lights look not sad.   Maybe they sell non blue-tinged white LEDs?

So now the guilt sets in.  Use LEDs on the tree and suck up that they’re stupid-looking, or use the older lights and suck up some extra power? I won’t have to buy any new sets of lights- I still have them from last year, and they’re not too tangled.  And there are plenty of other places I can put my LEDs- on the balcony, or the bookshelves, or in my garland.

This is going to take some time to mull over.  Fortunately, I haven’t got time to decorate the tree now, anyway.

Update: Food Drives and Bunnies

First, I have a request to make of you. There’s a massive food shortage at food banks around the country. The Capitol Area Food Banks can use all the donations they can get for this holiday season (and all the time, really). They’re having a non-perishable food drive December 14th (next Friday), so if you can stop by one of their truck locations in DC/MD/VA and give, or get something to one of their drop-off centers at that website some other day, it would mean a lot to a lot of hungry people. Best way to make your holiday sustainable is to help make sure other people have a good one, too.

Second, I have a Christmas tree. After a Christmas Treecouple (or maybe 4…) wrong turns, we located Oak Shade Farm, which is somewhere out near Rixeyville, VA- a little over an hour’s drive from where 66 and the Beltway intersect. It’s actually not that hard to find, we just had a few difficulties involving signs and reading them and such. Anyway, I found my tree. There it is, in its live, organic glory. It’s a white pine- very fat and fluffy, and about seven feet tall. The finding and cutting and tying-on-my-car’s-roof didn’t take very long, which is good, because I hadDrowsy Bunny some important bunny-holding to accomplish. Yes, they fit in one hand, and they were so soft it was difficult to determine when one was petting them. As an additional benefit, adorable children were also attracted to holding the adorable bunnies, so there was this perfect storm of cuteness hovering over the tree farm. If you’re looking for a tree, head to Oak Shade: free hot cider, bunnies, mountain vistas, and big nice-smelling organic trees for $40 and under. Even with the cost of gas, that makes them less expensive than the scrawny, sad trees in lots around here.

My tree is now up and watered, and is waiting for its trimmings. I picked up a couple of strings of LED Christmas lights today. Target had a small selection of them, but it looked as though the lights had already been picked over. I have a few strands of regular Christmas lights already, but LED lights use about 1/10th of the energy of the regular lights, last years and years longer, and emit much less heat, so there’s very little danger of them igniting your tree if it gets a little crispy. Regular light strings tend to use much more energy precisely because they lose so much of it to heat. So LEDs are more expensive to begin with, but they’re safer and last longer. Well, actually, from my experience people give up on light strings because they balled them up the year before and can’t get them untangled the next year, and LEDs aren’t going to solve that particular issue. So wrapping them up neatly is just as big a deal as having a good set to begin with. Maybe the extra up-front cost will be an incentive to treat them more carefully? I’ll post pictures when I get around to sprucing her up (it’ll be hard, she’s such a pine…).

Update: Countdown

It’s 4 weeks from Christmas Day, and this is an intimidating number for me, given that my Halloween decorations are still up. Fortunately, Rockefeller Center is better prepared for the season than I am. They’re going sustainable, too- their Christmas tree is getting 5 miles of super-efficient LED lights, available in smaller lengths at stores near you. Plus they cut it down with a handsaw, instead of the gas-powered chainsaws. A handsaw! Seriously, this tree is gigantic, and the sweat equity puts some oomph in the season. And they’re going to turn it into lumber for Habitat for Humanity once the season is over.

The article contains a few more tidbits about changes Rockefeller Center is making to be green year-round, with the largest solar roof in New York City and plans for the installation of a green roof. This gives Rockefeller Plaza-based NBC’s fluffy “Green Week” (I posted about it here) much more respectability. And the solar panels are from GE- Jack Donaghy would be proud.

My tree won’t be up until Sunday, when I pick it up from the organic tree farm. I promise photos. Meanwhile, if you’re casting about for gift ideas (after my BHA Gift Guide! Surely you’re all set…) check out these plans from the New American Dream website for thoughtful, inexpensive, and ecohappy gifts. They also have link to “Simplify the Holidays” with a lot of other advice in it for making the holiday season more sustainable and less-consumer driven.

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