On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a sustainable choice for a Christmas tree

Well, Christmas is upon us. If there was ever any doubt that we’re heading straight into the belly of the holiday beast, a trip to any mall in Canada could probably clear that right up.

With Christmas comes Christmas traditions—chestnuts roasting on an open fire, turkeys roasting in a warm oven, hot toddies… and, of course, Christmas Trees.

While local garden centres traditionally provide cut conifers to the masses, two Vancouver-area entrepreneurs are now offering a green alternative to your regular old Christmas tree.

Sean Macalister and Jeff Ferguson (who’s originally from Oakville, ON) of the Evergrow Christmas Tree Company will rent you a potted tree for the holiday season (at least, they would’ve if you had ordered one two weeks ago. But more about that later). They’ll even deliver it to your front door and pick it up when you’re done with it. All you have to do is keep the pot watered, decorate to your heart’s content and heave a sigh of relief that your tree won’t go straight to a landfill on January 1.

“Our goal is that none of the trees go to waste. We’re trying to take an ethical approach to business,” says Macalister. Macalister, a forester-in-training, and Ferguson, a BC forest firefighter, met at the University of British Columbia in 2006. After graduating, they started their careers in the forestry industry.

“But the forestry industry is in the tanks now,” says Macalister. “I was working on a contract and when my contract ended in October, I decided to focus on Evergrow full-time. I always wanted to start a business using my forestry knowledge.”

Evergrow offers seven different varieties of Christmas trees. With a potted lifespan of about five years, the trees are healthy-for-you-and-the-environment alternative to petroleum-based artificial trees or purpose-grown Christmas trees. Throughout the year, the trees are cared for at an outdoor nursery. Customers can even request the same tree year after year—at least, for about five years (after that, the trees probably won’t fit through a front door). When the trees grow too big for their pots, Evergrow will plant them so they can continue producing oxygen and sequestering carbon.

Macalister and Ferguson cut their business chops in an upper-level marketing course offered through the Faculty of Forestry at UBC. “It was probably one of the most useful things I pulled out of my degree,” says Ferguson. Macalister says, “In that class, we had to manage a plot of land to make money in different ways. Learning how to build a business plan was incredibly useful. Because Jeff and I knew how to write a business plan, we were prepared to pursue Evergrow when the opportunity presented itself. There should definitely be more business education in universities.”

It looks like their business planning has paid off—as of December 14, Evergrow was completely sold out of trees.

“We’ve worked really hard for it,” says Macalister. “And that’s what I love about being an entrepreneur: the harder you work, the more you get rewarded.”