Unwanted Christmas Trees Find a Home–at the Bottom of a Lake

By Eliza Strickland | January 5, 2011 1:53 pm

Oh Christmas trees, oh Christmas trees, what should we do with your corpses?

Here’s an idea that seems to be working well: Use them as fish habitats. Surprisingly, the trees are prefect for the job, Pete Alexander told The New York Times:

“Christmas trees are perfect — just the right size and weight,” said Mr. Alexander, the fisheries program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, which is based in Oakland, Calif. “And we get them free, because vendors want to get rid of them.”

After the holidays are over, the group gets leftover trees from vendors, ties a bunch of trees together, and sticks them at the bottom of a lake. The trees quickly grow algae and attract fish to the area–which also attracts fishermen. Every year the workers build a habitat in a new lake, and The New York Times reports that the structures last about five years:

“They last a pretty long time — about five years in the lake,” said Lee Mitchell, a natural resource specialist for the Army Corp of Engineers, who is leading a similar campaign this year in Shelbyville, Ill. He expects to receive 500 or more trees. “Fish use them like crazy. And the fishers really like them, too.”

Christmas tree retailers are usually left with up to 10 percent of their inventory (in 2009, wholesalers sold more than 12.8 million trees). And while it’s wonderful to find a use for these extra trees, we can’t help wishing for more projects involving trees that have been decorated, loved, and thrown away with the trash.

But the fish habitat projects are labor intensive,; in Illinois, Mitchell lures local fishermen with incentives. As he told The New York Times:

“If they help, we give them the GPS coordinates of the trees,” Mr. Mitchell said of the volunteers, many of whom are anglers. “You can go right to the spot, and it’ll be good fishing there.”

Other Christmas tree retailers have found other productive ways to recycle their trees. In Louisiana the trees have been used to restore hurricane-ravaged coastlines, while others get eaten by elephants, says The New York Times.

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Image: Flickr/arvindgrover


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