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UMTV: Trash Trees for Christmas



Churches put a lot of effort into decorating to set a festive mood for Christmas. But one church in the Big Apple started a new tradition and members don't mind if you "trash talk" their trees.



(New York, New York)

Outside New York's Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist, the Christmas trees are not the traditional evergreens. These trees are meant to make you think green.

Cameraman: "What do you think of the tree?" Man on street: "Lovely, I like it. It's very New York."

Take a closer look. Church members have spent countless hours turning hula hoops, bottle caps, lids, jar tops, and yesterday's food containers into a familiar shape.

Pastor hanging garland: "It seems like it should go on this side. Is that right?"

John Rivera, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "When I was setting them up, a lot people were passing by like 'What is that?' I mean from afar it looks like a nice Christmas tree and then they actually see it and we explain to them it was recycled bottle caps they're like, 'Wow!'"

It was Charlene Floyd's idea to turn trash into trees.

Charlene Floyd, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "All the things that are on the trees are things that can't be recycled. We've been talking a lot about this idea that we say we're gonna throw something away. But where is away? Stuff doesn't just disappear; it's still on the planet."

Pastor "K" Karpen sees the trees as an example of how churches should care for God's creation.

The Rev. James Karpen, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "Four or five years ago we began to take seriously looking at all the things that we could do to be a little bit better about stewarding what we have here."

The church youth helped the idea grow.

A.J. Tiedeman, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "I especially like drilling the holes, cause I get to use power tools. It's pretty awesome."

Cameron Nieblum, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "We've thrown our ideas together to make something even better than the original plan. Like the trash trees were originally just the bottle caps but then we put in new ideas and we added on and on to make it these giant trees full of everything."
The Rev. James Karpen: "As we're setting them out on the street people stop and they laugh and they smile, and they show their kids. And then they look closer. And they say, 'Oh, that's my favorite kind of pickles.'"

Barbara Sidell: "It's a good use of garbage."

The Rev. James Karpen: "I think people walk by and they see those trees and they think, 'Ah, this must be a really quirky place. People must be kind of fun here.'"

Rev. Karpen and Charlene looking at trees: "And then the white one right there."

Charlene Floyd: "I think people who are not in the church often think they know what's in the church and they know what's happening inside of these walls. And I think the trees make 'em think, 'Hmm, maybe I don't know what's going on, and maybe there's something a little different.' It's possible. They should step inside and see."

A.J. Tiedeman: "I think everyone at the church is pretty proud of the trees. When they get mentioned somewhere, people say, 'Hey that started at my church!'"

Maria Porto, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist:
"I've heard a few interesting comments, 'I wonder where they got all that time' and things like that. It doesn't take that long actually."

In 2012, neighbors joined for an official kickoff because lights were added for the first time.

Crowd counting down: "Two&ellipsis;three&ellipsis; (trees lit) Whoo!"

Jordan Nieblum, Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist: "You walk past that and you see, oh bottle cap tree that's all lit up. Especially around the holidays, people need to see maybe it's not all about money and spending and buying and pretty trees and lights and stuff but just like something&ellipsis; a bottle cap tree created. It just makes them smile."

Neighbors admiring the trees: "Seltzer bottles. (laughs) I love it!"

Maria Porto: "We are all responsible for taking care of the Earth. God gave us a great gift we should do our best to take care of it."

Church member: "We started a new tradition! Who says Methodists can't do something new?" Jo Goodson: "That's right. Way to go Marie. Excellent!"

Crowd next to lit trees: "&ellipsis;fa la la, la la la, la la la."


The trees have captured the attention of New Yorkers. The church took home a blue ribbon in the citywide 2012 Maker's Faire and the trees were mentioned on Martha Stewart's blog.

For more information, contact The Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist at 212-362-3179, or on the web at

Posted: December 14, 2012

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