Christmas tree project event
2017 Cape Fear Christmas tree dune-building event. Source: Surfrider Foundation event video screen capture.

With the holiday season over, Carolina Beach in North Carolina has found a unique and earth-friendly way to dispose of old Christmas trees: the community is using them to help protect the shoreline.

Crouch: “We’re constantly seeing erosion from storms, hurricanes, and that dune is our front line of defense against storm surges and sea-level rise.”

That’s Ethan Crouch of the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. For the past several years, the group has worked with volunteers to lay old Christmas trees on the edge of the dunes and stake them down. Over time, the wind covers the trees in sand, which helps rebuild the dunes.

The approach will not work everywhere, and it must be done strategically so it does not affect nesting sea turtles and other wildlife.

But when complete, the benefits go beyond a stronger shoreline.

Crouch: “People like to go back come summertime, and when they’re sitting on the beach, they can look back at the dunes and go, ‘right there, that’s where I put that Christmas tree,’ and so they feel a certain sense of ownership. It inspires people to other protective action and other changes of behavior to also reduce the impacts of climate change.”

Reporting credit: Anna Moritz/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Erika Street Hopman is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media, an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. ChavoBart Digital Media contributes original reporting,...