“Green Christmas Trees” better than dead ones

Live, potted holiday trees a great way to re-think tradition

November 29, 2010 — Traditional Christmas trees typically have sad endings, lying bare on sidewalks and shedding dry brown needles until they’re carted off for burning or chipping.  That’s why Friends of the Urban Forest offers beautiful, potted, six-to-eight-foot “Green Christmas Trees” every December for San Francisco residents to bring home, decorate, and enjoy for up to six weeks.  After they’re returned to FUF, they’re planted on San Francisco streets for everyone’s benefit.

The trees in the Green Christmas Tree program come from FUF’s street tree nursery, where trees are grown until they’re large enough to be used in FUF’s twice-monthly neighborhood tree plantings.  FUF is a non-profit organization that helps individuals and neighborhood groups to plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens throughout San Francisco.  Since 1981, FUF has planted over 43,000 trees, totaling 40% of San Francisco’s street tree canopy.

“Living Christmas trees are much more environmentally friendly than dead ones,” said Dan Flanagan, FUF’s executive director.  “People in the Bay Area are good at re-thinking tradition, and the Green Christmas Tree is a great example.”

This year, FUF’s Green Christmas Trees will be available outside the eastern entrance of the Safeway at Market and Church streets on Sunday, December 5 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  They will also be available at FUF’s office in the Presidio on Monday, December 6 through Friday, December 10 between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Green Christmas Trees are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but can also be ordered ahead of time online at bit.ly/greenxmas.  The $80 cost is fully tax-deductible.

People who choose Green Christmas Trees instead of conventional cut trees help the environment in several ways.  Green Christmas Trees reduce waste and post-holiday litter, and after they’re planted on the streets of San Francisco they clean the air, reduce storm-water runoff into the Bay, and provide wildlife habitat.

Green Christmas Trees stand out for their appearance as much as for their ecological benefit.  The four choices offered by FUF — the New Zealand Christmas Tree (Metrosideros excelsus), the Fern Pine (Podocarpus gracilior), the Japanese Blueberry Tree (Elaeocarpus decipiens) and the Strawberry Tree (Arbutus x ‘Marina’) — are not the cone-shaped firs and spruces commonly used as Christmas trees.  They must also be transported with greater care; FUF recommends wrapping the tree in an old bed-sheet or tarp before driving it home, to prevent wind damage and water loss.  Once the tree is set up and decorated, it will look every bit as gorgeous as a conventional Christmas tree, with its novelty adding a bit of extra glamor.

In addition to tree planting and tree care programs, FUF offers educational and outreach programs, such as its free pruning workshops and tree tours.