Environmental Group Wants to Replace Rockefeller Christmas Tree

story_lrgimage_2010_04_R5963_Midtown_Petition_Against_Rockefeller_Christmas_TreWhat’s more green than a Christmas tree? Not cutting it down in the first place, says a pro-environment group petitioning Rockefeller Center to end its holiday tree-lighting ceremony.

The group, Save a Giant Tree, hopes to collect 10,000 signatures to persuade Rockefeller Center management to replace the tree with artwork fashioned from recycled materials.

“We want to see something that of course does justice to the holiday season — but it doesn’t have to be a dead tree,” said Jennifer Knox, who started the group last December when she saw a 70-year-old, 76-foot Norway spruce being trucked into Rockefeller Center.

“The act of cutting down a tree of that size is just ludicrous,” Knox said.

Instead of placing an old tree in the traditional spot above the skating rink, Knox said organizers could display a green sculpture comparable to Jeff Koons’s “Puppy” topiary, which was a popular hit when it went on exhibit at Rockefeller Center in 2000.

A light display, similar to those of Hong Kong and Madrid, could also celebrate the season without cutting down a tree, she said.

The group has so far collected 200 signatures.

While organizers listen to the concerns of environmental groups, the tree is the centerpiece of the season and a longstanding tradition, said Keith Douglas, senior director of sales and marketing at Rockefeller Center.

“There is thought that goes into it and we’re trying to be as sensitive as we possibly can,” Douglas said.

Organizers, who do not pay for the trees, look for Norway Spruces are older and in unusual circumstances, he said. Crews also re-forest homeowner’s yards after the trees are taken away.

Last year’s tree was donated by Connecticut homeowner Maria Corti, who was going to have to cut down the tree in her front yard because the roots were interfering with her septic system, Douglas said.

At the end of the last holiday season, the tree trunk was donated to Habitat for Humanity to be used as lumber in building a home for a Connecticut family, The New York Times reported.

Branches from the tree were turned into mulch and donated to the Central Park Zoo, Boy Scouts of America and other organizations.

In recent years, the event designers have switched to LED lights, and installed solar panels above 45 Rockefeller Center in order to power up the display off the New York City electrical grid.

“It really is the kickoff to the holiday season and we’re very proud of that,” Douglas said of the display.

The efforts to green the Christmas tree exhbit encourage Knox that an even bigger step is possible.

“Traditions change when the resources around them change,” she said.

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