Lessons in Christmas tree recycling
I spent this past Sunday, Jan. 2, volunteering at the Christmas Tree Recycling event, held daily through Jan. 17 by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. My site was Bartley Ranch, but other recycling locations include Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno and Shadow Mountain Sports Complex in Sparks. Here’s what I learned.
• Without this program, thousands of Christmas trees would meet one of three fates: 1) tossed into the landfill, 2) burned, which in the past has contributed to low air quality in the region and designated “no-burn” days; or 3) dumped into open space. People may think the latter is OK, since trees are natural and biodegradable, but they break down slowly, dry out and become a fire hazard.
“Yard waste is not good to have in an open space area because it is fuel for wildfire, says KTMB executive director Christi Cakiroglu.
Alternatively, these trees go through a chipper to become mulch, which is used to line trails, smother weeds and prevent erosion along places like the Truckee River and area parks.
• Residents can pick up free mulch created by the project by contacting Bartley Ranch at 828-6612 or Rancho San Rafael at 785-4512.
• In order for these trees to get through the chipper, they have to be cleared of ornaments, tinsel and cannot be flocked—sprayed with that white stuff that makes them look “snowy” but will clog a chipper. That goes for wreaths and boughs, too—no wires, no decorations.
• As a policy, the volunteers don’t carry money on their person. Once it goes into the locked metal box, it doesn’t come out. So they can’t make change for you. If you want to give exactly the $3 per tree suggested donation, bring exactly $3. If you’re OK with giving a fiver and letting them keep the change, they’re happy to take it. However, if you don’t want to part with your $20 bill, plan ahead.
• Without these volunteers, this program would not be possible. Last year, roughly 300 people volunteered for the Christmas Tree Recycling project, and they helped recycle more than 10,000 trees. Unlike me, who volunteered in order to write this story, these volunteers do it because they choose wholeheartedly to spend their day in this way, in the cold, contributing to the community, allowing a program to thrive that couldn’t work without them. They’re groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters, whose “bigs” bring their “littles” along, and the Reno B.L.U.E.S Society, whose members volunteer every year and have been known to bring a football and barbecue fixings to the event to ensure the day is a fun one.
They’re also individuals like Harriette Treloar, the project leader for my volunteer shift. Her gray hair and small body belie an energy-filled powerhouse. She was grabbing six-footers out of the back of pick-up trucks before the large men at the drivers’ seats could even get out of their vehicles. She’s volunteered for many area nonprofits, and has worked at this event for the past five years.
“I’ve always been volunteering,” said Treloar. “I’ve done it all my life. The idea of doing it where I could be outside was fun, and I love the program—the idea that we’re keeping this from the landfill and doing something productive with it.”
• The last thing I noticed, slipping back into my car and turning on the heater, is you go home smelling like Christmas trees.