Dreaming of a Greener Silicon Valley

“Most living Christmas tree programs just offer potted trees that eventually die in pots or in backyards where they shouldn’t have been planted,” says Tree Care Manager Kevin Lee, ’11 BS, ’16 MS Environmental Studies. (Christina Olivas photo)

Many South Bay lots boast Christmas conifers this time of year, but the trees at one sprawling lot stand apart. At the Our City Forest nonprofit nursery on Spring Street, you’ll find Spartans engaged in a novel effort to make a greener, merrier Silicon Valley through a new Holiday Rent-A-Tree program.

Come January, the majority of the 30 million trees that are cut and sold every year in the United States get tossed out with the trash. Bringing a living tree into your home allows you to enjoy the look and smell of a real tree with less waste, clean-up and fire hazard—and without the carbon footprint of artificial trees, 80 percent of which are imported from China.

“Most living Christmas tree programs just offer potted trees that eventually die in pots or in backyards where they shouldn’t have been planted,” says Tree Care Manager Kevin Lee, ’11 BS, ’16 MS Environmental Studies. “What makes our program different is that we offer specific trees that do well in San Jose; after the holidays, we’ll take them back and plant them in community parks and at schools where they will thrive.”

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After the holidays, the Rent-A-Tree program will plant the evergreens at parks and schools. (Christina Olivas photo)

While you won’t find a Noble Fir at the Our City Forest nursery, the organization does offer 10 different Christmas tree species, such as the Deodar Cedar. Like the two mature Deodar Cedars towering some 80 feet over Tower Lawn, the potted Deodars have fine, blue-green needles. About hip high, they will run you $25 (tax deductible) for the holiday season. A long-term goal of the program is to let renters know where their Christmas trees are planted so they can visit them and watch them grow.

Lee is one of four SJSU grads working for the nonprofit—which has planted about 60,000 trees in the area since its 1994 inception—and his love for trees goes far beyond the holidays.

“Trees are my passion,” says Lee. Originally a bio major, Lee switched to environmental science and “everything fell into place.” Strolling among the 200 Christmas trees available for holiday rental with canine nursery mascots Bodie and Poppy following at his heels, Lee says, “I’m in a master’s program now for additional learning opportunities, but this is my dream job.”

Visit Our City Forest for more information or to reserve your tree.

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