Since 1931, the enormous Christmas tree that lights up Rockefeller Center each year is one of the most iconic visuals of the holiday season.
As the tree is lit tonight for the first time this season, one has to wonder about the tree’s story. Where did it come from, and what will happen to it after the holiday season has come and gone?
This year’s tree is a 94-foot-tall Norway spruce donated from Angie and Graig Eichler’s backyard in Oneonta, N.Y. It’s approximately 90 to 95 years old, weighs about 14 tons, and is the second-largest tree to ever stand tall in Rockefeller Center. The spruce will be on display over downtown Manhattan from Nov. 30 through Jan. 7, and millions of locals and tourists will flock to Rockefeller Plaza to bask in the glow from its 50,000 lights.
While standard treecycling may not be a viable option for the holiday giant, 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 the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Wood from the following trees helped to construct multifamily condominium complexes in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Stanford, Conn.
In addition to recycling the wood from the gigantic tree, Rockefeller Center has taken drastic steps to make its festive lighting more earth-friendly, too.
The tree is typically lit with five miles of lighting, and as you can imagine, all those lights use up a huge amount of energy. But since 2007, the tree has been lit exclusively with LED lights, which draw a fraction of the power traditionally required by the tree. That includes the Swarovski star on top.
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 before.