All the Great Reasons to Rent a live Christmas Tree

Retro-christmastree Here's one way to keep your Christmas tree evergreen: rent a live one.

According to this article in the New York Times, one very smart Los Angeles entrepreneur, Scott Martin, figured out a business that not only saves trees from death-by-chainsaw, but bonds us to them as well, since you can get the same tree to celebrate around, year after year.

Not to mention, the clean-up is easy, since he and his crew deliver and pick up.


—Josie


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December
17, 2009 / New York Times

Business
Delivers Christmas Trees for Rent

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER

TORRANCE,
Calif. — It is a nibble weird that a guy who describes his relationship to
Christmas as “hostile” runs around greater Los Angeles in a floppy red Santa
hat and answers his iPhone, “Merry Christmas, this is Scotty Claus!”

But
bummed as false merriment and gift obligations render him, Scott Martin —
landscape architect and tree hugger in a literal sense — was unnerved by the
sight of post-Christmas trees lying about like so much discarded sausage
casing.

What
people really ought to do, he reasoned, was rent a Christmas tree, and return
it, alive, to the nursery once the season was over.

Mr.
Martin’s idea, enabled by a rotten economy that made his free time greater and
his potential labor pool deeper, is now manifest in his new business delivering
live, potted Christmas trees that are taken away once the toys have been
unwrapped and, possibly, already broken, and the New Year’s confetti has been
swept away.

Rentable
Christmas trees, which have been tried in Oregon and a smattering of other
places over the years, are a perfect match for Los Angeles, he said, where
Christmas trees have “an image issue,” and escaping a drive through traffic
with a tree strapped to a car roof is especially welcome.

“You
can try anything here, and no one will tell you it’s a bad idea,” said Mr.
Martin, who is 30 and grew up in the South Bay here, where he delivered trees
as a teenager for the local nursery. “California is more attached to the green
movement so there are more willing to try this service here.”

To
rent a tree, a customer visits his Web site, www.livingchristmas.com,
picks out a tree from among several varieties and then awaits delivery.
Delivery days are determined by geography, to save time and gas. Prices range
from $50, for a two-to-three-foot number, up to $185 for something considerably
bigger. While two weeks is the recommended length of stay for a live tree in a
house, Mr. Martin lets his customers keep them for three weeks.

The
tree is then picked up to join its evergreen cousins; they will summer together
on industrial properties where Mr. Martin rents space for pennies on the dollar
to house his inventory. People who want the same tree next year ask for the
tree to be tagged with their name, so it might return next December, taller.

Extra-credit
groovy points: The delivery trucks run on biodiesel; the trees are cared for by adults with
disabilities; the drivers will pick up donations for Goodwill and used wrapping
paper for recycling; and his Web site also sells eco-friendly, fair trade ornaments.

Mr.
Martin — whose landscape architecture work slowed quite a bit this year, given
that most of it was in Dubai — gets delivery help from some laid-off architects
he knows. “They are willing, for $15 an hour, to put on reindeer antlers and
tell people Merry Christmas.”

Last
Friday, Mr. Martin expertly threaded his truck through the small streets and
secret byways of Manhattan Beach, until he pulled up in front of an old beach
house where, naturally, there was no parking.

“Can
we steal your driveway to deliver a Christmas tree?” Mr. Martin gamely asked a
neighbor, who appeared to find it very hard to say no to a cheerful pair of
guys — Mr. Martin and his helper, Justin “Season” Casillas — in festive
headwear carrying a spruce. Delilah and Charlotte Samuels, the children of the
house, came racing out into the drizzle to check out the incoming tree.

Their
mother, Megan Arquette, buried her nose in the branches. “Ramona, you’re back!”
she said, taking in the tree’s scent. “Ummmm. It smells so good.” The family
was one of last year’s handful of pilot customers; this year, the company has
rented 400 trees and expected to finish the season with 500.

“We
love this,” Ms. Arquette said of tree renting. “It stays fresh, the cleanup is
minimal because it doesn’t drop anything, and it goes away and comes back next
year. It’s kind of like having a little pet.”

The
drive to anthropomorphize live trees seems common. Alice Haliburton, who heard
about tree rentals from a pal in her spinning class, was giddy to see her
“fluffy” tree arrive, so much so that she jumped around a little. “He smells
great, and he’s got a good home!” she exclaimed as Mr. Martin and Mr. Casillas
wedged him into a corner of her apartment in Redondo Beach. “And you can see
he’s happy.

Yeah,
so there can be problems. The guy who was supposed to pick up storage trays for
the trees out in Chino left without them. People get touchy about trees. They
don’t appreciate traffic. “I try to explain it’s Christmas, and it’s a tree,”
Mr. Martin said. “I say: ‘Your temporary Tannenbaum is not there yet? What can
I do for you?’ ”

But
he looks forward to bringing his trees back next year. “Your kids are growing,
your trees are growing, it’s really dynamic,” he said. “We’re breathing new
life into the holiday.”

 

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

 

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