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Christmas Tree Rentals, Solar Farming and Four-legged Fire Fighters: What We’re Reading This Week

Dec. 9, 2022
A look at some recent headlines focused on the environment, sustainability and climate change.

It’s full-on festive over here. I’m eating my holiday cookies, shopping for gifts and trimming the tree. In other words, it’s wonderful but also stressful and chaotic.

This year, I’m trying to focus on the people, the reason why I continue all of these traditions. I find it helps ground me and can prevent me from spiraling when things aren’t going Pinterest perfect.

The holidays can be filled with abundance—everything from hearty meals to presents under the tree. That can also present waste. I’m trying to be mindful and cut back, or at least curb, my excess this year.

For example, my mom freezes her homemade holiday cookies so they don’t go stale and we can enjoy them well into the new year. I give gifts in paper bags that, unlike wrapping paper, can be reused. I’m also giving gifts of experience that can be enjoyed, such as tickets to an event or Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza.

With that in mind, I have found some news focused on other ways we can lessen our environmental impact and be better stewards of Mother Nature.

‘O Christmas Tree’ Rental

There’s long been two choices when it comes to Christmas trees: real or artificial. People tend to feel strongly for either option. Those who love a real tree often talk about the ritual of cutting down a tree and the smell of the fresh pine. Those who opt for artificial often talk about the practicality and cost savings.

Residents in the U.K. have a third option, one that’s gaining attention amid signs of climate change and the rising consciousness of sustainability: Christmas tree rentals.

People can go to a Christmas tree farm and rent a young fir for the month of December. They typically put down a deposit and leave with instructions for daily watering. After the holidays, people return the tree to the farm, where it is cared for. The following year, can be rented out again. After close to a decade, the tree will reach full maturity and will be planted in the woods to live out its days.

Rented trees are therefore smaller than the ones cut down on the lot. Given London’s expensive real estate market the smaller size could also be suitable for apartment dwellers. And it may create a new tradition.

“Lots of people take the same one home every December – they even name them,” says Craig Tennock from Cotswold Fir to Country Living. “They shoot up at about a foot a year, meaning families can pick one to literally grow with their children. We like to call them trees for life.”

I have yet to see the tree rental idea catch on in the U.S., but as someone who has never had a real tree before, I would be willing to try a rental.

Read more here.

Farming Solar Energy

I grew up in a subdivision, but it was right down the main road from corn fields. I live in a bigger city now, but I carry with me the appreciation for those big tractors that I frequently shared the road with.

As a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, the United States will see greater adoption and acceleration of renewable energies. Individuals and businesses can certainly take action, but for the country to really wean itself off of fossil fuels, we need scale. This article from Bloomberg offers a nuanced look at the landscape of agrivolatics, the intersection between agriculture and innovative technologies.

I’ve seen more and more residential and commercial buildings add solar panel to their roofs. It can be enough to power their individual units, but the grid is massive—and a large-scale shift will require lots more panels. The thing is, those take up lots of space. That's raised questions of where and how this could work. One potential answer may be found in the corn fields.

"Solar panels work best in light winds, moderate temperatures and low humidity," writes Adam Minter. "Rooftops share some of these characteristics. But nothing maximizes that combination of traits quite so well as cropland. For solar developers keen to get the most from their investments, that makes farm country irresistible."

There are, of course, concerns about scaling agrivolatics. Minter details plenty of potential challenges, too, including disinformation. While these can't be overlooked, it is exciting to look at the possibilities. For example, researchers found that solar arrays helped double tomato production in Arizona while also being 65% more efficient with water usage.

Further research is needed, but I welcome more advancements and opportunities for our nation's farmers. They have always taken care of the rest of us, and it's no surprise that they will continue to do so in the future.

Read Minter's piece here.

Four-legged Fire Fighters

I love animals, and this headline made me smile, something I think we could all use more of these days.

CNN Reporter Derek Van Dam visited California, where homeowners are looking for ways to protect their properties from fires. It’s a growing concern, as the nation’s most populous state has seen more wildfires and increasingly longer wildfire seasons. Weary firefighters and unprecedented droughts have exacerbated the situation.

That’s where the goats come in. They have a seemingly bottomless four-chamber stomach. They can graze for hours. In doing so, they can clear dry brush and other debris that could easily spark another blaze. Perhaps more impressively, they do so without the need for pesticides, machines or manual labor.

Other municipalities across the country have recruited goats, and there’s growing evidence that goat-cleared areas can create a barrier in the event of a wildfire, giving firefighters a chance to put out the blaze.

And, based on what I saw in Ireland a few months ago, they aren’t afraid of climbing hills or going into ditches to eat. They’re nimble, patient and—most importantly—willing to eat.

Watch the adorable video here.

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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