What Happens to the Rockefeller Tree After Christmas?

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The 2008 Rockefeller tree was recycled into building materials for a multifamily condominium complex in Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo: Flickr/Javier Gutierrez Acedo

The iconic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center will be lit for the first time of the season on Wednesday at 7 p.m. As millions tune in to watch the lighting ceremony on their televisions and flock to Rockefeller Plaza to see it all live, we can’t help but wonder about the tree’s story. Where did it come from, and what will happen to it after the holidays have come and gone?

This year’s tree is a 74-foot-tall Norway Spruce donated by Nancy Keller, her daughter, Debra Crawford, and Debra’s sons, Billy and Mitch, from Mifflinville, Penn.

The tree arrived at Rockefeller Plaza on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, which seemed just right to Keller – whose late husband, Doyle, served stateside in the Air Force for 20 years. Although the family loved and cared for the tree since moving into their Mifflinville estate in 1985, Keller said she won’t be sad to see it go.

“We just feel honored that the tree was chosen and will be enjoyed by so many people when it’s sitting in the middle of Rockefeller Center,” said Keller, who has taken her granddaughters Olivia, 11, and Emma, 8, to see the Rockefeller tree every holiday season for years.

The Keller/Crawford family’s tree, which will light up Manhattan from Nov. 30 through Jan. 7, is approximately 75 years old and weighs in at about 10 tons – making for some truly jaw-dropping holiday cheer.

While standard treecycling may not be an option for the holiday behemoth, this king-sized cheer-giver will still be recycled after the season.

Since adopting a more eco-friendly model in 2007, Rockefeller Center has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to reclaim their trees’ wood for building materials.

Lumber from the first tree was used to build a Habitat house in Mississippi for a family who lost their home after Hurricane Katrina. Wood from the following trees helped to construct multifamily condominium complexes in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Stanford, Conn.

But recycling the enormous tree isn’t the only way the Rock is going green. The lights on the holiday giant will be eco-friendly, too. Since 2007, the tree has been lit exclusively with LEDs, which draw a fraction of the energy formerly required to power the tree’s 30,000 lights.

By switching to eco-friendly lighting, Rockefeller Center has managed to decrease the tree’s daily energy consumption from a massive 3,510 kwH per day to a significantly-less massive 1,297 kwH per day. Hundreds of solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller buildings help power the new LEDs, making daily operation of the tree more energy efficient than ever.

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