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1 green way to get rid of Chicago Christmas trees

December 28, 2011|By Mick Swasko, RedEye

Most Chicagoan's breathe a sigh of relief after the holidays. But that's just when Adam Goldstein's work begins.

The 40-year old co-founder of Do the Right Thing, a non-profit organization that advocates recycling, is gearing up for another busy season. Goldstein says he knows it might be tempting to throw a bare, dried up tree into an alley or garbage bin, but for those looking for a more earth-friendly option, he's willing to take it off their hands.

"We want to meet the people in our neighborhoods, in our city," he said of the three-person effort that picks up trees to be recycled. Goldstein or a member of his crew charges $25 to visit any apartment or home on the north side, wrap the tree up and take it out to be mulched. He said the focus on the north side only—as far south as Roosevelt Road, as far north has Evanston's city limits and as far west as Cicero Avenue—is in an effort to be "location efficient," and not driving large distances just to get a few trees. In the future, however, he said he would like to train more people to serve other areas of the city.

"For a good month to two months, it's non-stop for three individuals including myself," he said, adding that he likes to talk to customers about their general recycling habits to get a better idea of Chicagoan's knowledge of the subject. "We don't want it to be just simply picking up a tree and c'est la vie." Customers schedule appointments and a member of Goldstein's crew picks up the tree in a truck.

Goldstein also offers a curbside pickup for $15, and for those who want to help out his efforts but don't have a real tree to haul away, a $5 "virtual tree mulching" donation program is available. He said that money would go toward taking trees out of alleys and other areas to be recycled.

It's the right thing to do, he said, when thinking about what would happen to the trees that are just dumped out of the way. Those are picked up by city garbage trucks, and brought to landfills more than 80 miles away. Instead, Goldstein has the trees made into mulch locally, where it can be reused.

"It's a symbol of recycling," he said. "It's a huge item that was uprooted from the ground; we should do something with it."

The effort has been an undertaking for Goldstein for the past eight years, each of which he's had progressively more customers. Last year, the team picked up just short of 300.

The city also offers 23 unmanned locations throughout the city where trees can be dropped off to be recycled. In 2011, 14,591 were collected. Drop off dates for this season are from Jan. 7 to Jan. 20.

mswasko@tribune.com | @mickswasko

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