If you live an Atlanta and want a Christmas tree, you can call up an elf. Tree Elves, a spin-off of a local startup, shows up at your door in full costume, with a freshly cut tree. After the holidays, they come back to cart the tree off to their farm, where it’s turned into compost. The elves also plant a native Georgia tree to replace the one that was cut down.
Tree Elves is the unlikely side project of an eco-friendly popsicle startup called King of Pops, which spends summer months carting flavors like fresh peach and honeydew lime around the city. If you’re a popsicle maker in the off-season–people don’t buy many popsicles in December–why not become an elf?
“Our company is pretty seasonal,” says Nick Carse, one of the company’s founders. “In the winter, we can’t be outside, and there’s a lot less events, farmers’ markets, music festivals, whatever. This was a way for us to keep a lot of our employees that we didn’t necessarily have work for through the winter.”
It was also a way to give people a different experience than poking around a tree lot and then, after New Year’s, dumping the wilting remains on the sidewalk. It’s a little more responsible, and definitely more fun.
“Our elf costumes are based off of Elf, the movie with Will Ferrell,” Carse says. “That’s the elf look that we go for–kind of a big and goofy elf. We deliver in teams of two, and we all have elf names, and sing a song when they open the door.” The elves also bring popsicles with Christmas flavors.
When Tree Elves first started three winters ago, they delivered potted trees. It was more sustainable; after the holidays, they came back and planted the tree. The challenge in a city like Atlanta, where people tend to have large houses, was that people wanted bigger and bigger trees. After struggling to carry six-foot potted trees, and dealing with broken pots that ruined floors and carpets, the elves decided to change to cut trees–at least for now.
“Eventually, we’d like to bring back potted trees as an option,” Carse says. “Now that we have our own farm, we’re going to start growing trees that are native to Georgia. Not Frasier firs, but cedars and things like that. Hopefully that will work out in the coming years. For now, it’s a one for one kind of model, as we compost the Christmas trees and plant new ones. People can feel like they’re not doing the worst thing in the world by cutting down a tree.”