Haleakala christmas tree

I love trees and especially love having a tree in my home honored and decorated to the nines, but I always had a conscience about cutting down the trees (although I understand many are farmed and replanted), the pesticides they use to grow the trees (mainly round up) and the environmental impact (carbon emissions) from transporting thousands of trees to the islands.

It is convenient to get a Noble or Douglas fir from the big box stores (Walmart, Lowes Home Depot) where the only question is: Should I get the cheaper Douglas that smells great but drop pines, or the slightly more expensive Noble that doesn’t have a strong fragrance but has greater success retaining its needles? The day after Thanksgiving there are lines of people in Kahului excited to make this decision and deck their halls with tinsel and decorations.

However, on Maui there are other ‘greener’ options. You can buy a tree from a local farm, which although is more expensive keeps it local, has less of an environmental footprint, gives you a fresher tree and greater choice in size. For example, Kula Botanical Garden boasts to be one of the largest growers of Christmas trees in Hawaii. This year they are selling trees December 4th, 5th, 6th, 12th  and 13th between 9am – 4pm.

My favorite option though is the great opportunity Friends of Haleakala offer one morning in December (at time of writing date was penciled in for Dec 12th), when you can go find your chosen festive pine, cut it down and take it home for free! Not only is this a fun family activity, that can turn into a Christmas family tradition, but it also helps our island control an invasive species.

Pine species such as Monterrey Pine and Mexican weeping pine were planted last century and originally part of a forest restoration project. However, as years passed it was soon realized that these species are not suitable for the slopes of Haleakala as they inhibit the growth of native vegetation.

So today Friends of Haleakala open up Pu’u Nianiau, which borders the Haleakala National Park, one morning a year to help us decorate our homes and prevent these invasive pines spreading across the National Park boundary.

Friends of Haleakala are a non profit organization assisting Haleakala National Park, “preserve Haleakalā’s unique eco-systems, scenic character and associated native Hawaiian cultural and spiritual resources so as to leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Arrive anytime between 9am and noon at the pullout on crater road about 1/10 a mile before the National park entrance, I recommend getting their early to get the pick of the best. They recommend that you wear closed-toe shoes, bring rain gear and sun protection, water, gloves and a handsaw. Don’t worry if you don’t have though as they will let you borrow gloves and a saw if you come empty handed. To find out more go to www.fhnp.org/. Mele Kalikimaka, I hope you enjoy your tree!

Image Credit: mauimama

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