Ever wonder what happens to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree when it gets taken down after the holiday season?
That’s where Habitat for Humanity and SUNY ESF step in. Since 2007 Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of Rockefeller Center has donated the enormous tree to Habitat for Humanity to be milled into 2x4s for a Habitat home.
This past year with the 2010 tree, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering Pilot Plant was approached to use the remaining scraps of the tree. They were first contacted by a graphic designer in NYC and asked specifically about making paper out of scraps from the tree. The designer had contacted many commercial paper companies and while everyone loved the idea, the quantity of scrap was minimal and many company’s machinery couldn’t handle it. Mohawk Paper, in Cohoes, NY graciously referred the designer to SUNY ESF and the project was officially under way.
So what would this coveted paper be used for exactly?
Author David Rubel, a former author for Habitat for Humanity was writing a story entitled The Carpenter’s Gift that would tell the tale of a young boy’s hope for a better life. Portions of the paper were used to manufacture parts of this hardcover book and a portion of the proceeds raised from sales would be donated back into Habitat for Humanity. In addition, book plates were manufactured and sold on Habitat’s website in which all proceeds were donated back into Habitat’s organization.
Due to the limited amount of scrap remaining from the tree, SUNY ESF faced challenges while creating this special product. The scale of their equipment was mostly made to handle larger or smaller amounts of wood so they had to modify processes, making it very labor intensive. The project was completed thanks to many volunteer hours by the staff of the pilot plant. A project this size would normally be an expensive task but they were willing to cut the cost by donating their own labor.
Contact began in November of 2010 when the tree was just put up, Habitat and other sponsors toured ESF’s facilities to see how the process would work. In early January, 2011 the tree came down and was milled into lumber for the Habitat home they had traditionally been building. The scrap lumber was delivered to ESF in late January and the process was carried out through February and March with the paper officially made on April 15th.
With interesting projects in the past, including grass and even shredded American currency mixed into their paper the staff at ESF couldn’t be more excited with the final product. They were pleased to be able to do it through volunteerism and displayed a universal pride to help such a special organization. “Not many paper mills can do the wacky stuff we get to experiment with in our pilot facilities,” explained Ray Appleby, the Pilot Plant operations manager.
The Habitat house from the 2010 tree was successfully built in Newburgh, NY, close by to where the tree originally stood. It truly is a New York based project, beginning with the selection of the tree, display in New York City, and going back into a NY state community in addition to the help from SUNY ESF to make use of all possible parts of the tree for a good cause.
You can see more of the process through this video and check out the behind the scenes of work in making the book and the loving family receiving this amazing home.